Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Instructing with Gentleness, Pt. 6

Is it the right moment in your relationship with that person to offer this word of teaching or correction?

In the times that I have failed miserably in my attempts to instruct with gentleness, this was the point where I failed. Finding the right moment of the day or week relative to the person's situational temperament is certainly important, but that's not what I'm talking about here. This point is about the strength and nature of the relationship you have with the other person.

Many years ago, I was part of a church that was about half college students. I was out of college myself, but I had a pretty strong desire to mentor young men a few years behind me on the journey of life and faith. One such guy was a leader in training in his homegroup. I had observed him a number of times in how he interacted with others while in this role and noticed some things he could work on to improve. I honestly don't remember what they were, but I do remember speaking with him. We had a private moment at one point, and I shared my thoughts with him. He received them well, at the time, but just a few days later he pulled me aside and was very upset by the whole encounter. Among other things, he said something to the effect of "I just can't receive that from you right now."

It wasn't until years later that I began to understand my mistake. And it wasn't until I repeated the mistake recently and had it blow up in my face that I truly learned the importance of this point. Incidentally, that moment is what prompted this entire series on instructing with gentleness. And this is what God has taught me about this point:

The strength of your relationship must be able to support the weight of your message.

There is a threshold in every relationship, a moment beyond which there is an understanding and a trust whereby Proverbs 27:6 and 17 can really take hold:

6a The wounds of a friend are trustworthy
17 Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.

Some people can reach that moment in a matter of minutes, but for others it can take years. And in some of your relationships, you may never reach that moment. If you haven't reached that moment with someone you want to speak a word of teaching or correction to, you must take an abundance of extra precaution, especially in your method, to ensure that your message is received in a spirit of gentleness. You must also be open to the possibility that God may want to use someone else to deliver the message you feel like is from Him and that you should simply keep your mouth shut and pray.

Now, there is another side to this with a couple of key points. One, you may be the type of person who never lets others reach this moment with you. The end result is that no one has the freedom to speak truth into your life. This may be as a result of some past hurt in your life, or it may be pride. Either way, it's a dangerous place to be, and I strongly encourage you to find two or three mature believers in your life to whom you can give this freedom.

Two, the leaders in your church have a responsibility to instruct and correct you regardless of whether or not you have given them the freedom to do so. This does not preclude the need for them to do this with gentleness, but you do have a command from scripture to receive such instruction from your church leaders.

Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.

In all of this, whether your are giving or receiving instruction, please remember Paul's instruction in Colossians 4:6:

Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.

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