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Relational disappointment happens to all of us. It does not matter where you go or what you do; a conflict will always be part of your life. The only way to successfully stay away from these conflicts is to stay away from people, but even that will not work because of the personal war inside you (James 4:1–3). Complete and uninterrupted shalom all the time is not possible with fallen people in a fallen world.
Social media has given rise to the avoidance and isolation method. Social media provides people a way to engage others while protecting themselves from being hurt. You can unfriend or unfollow someone with the click of a button. At best, these cyber relationships are partial ones. Even with our Internet ministry to others, we can only hear their perspective.
We cannot enter into their world, which is a core component of the gospel—Jesus came into our world. We meet with our friends in cyberspace, always distant from them, limited in how we help (Proverbs 18:17). The best way to serve a person is to know them. The way you know them is to have an authentic life in real time and space.
Even counseling is a limited context where the counselor is trying to know the real story of a person. Without entering into the fuller narrative of their lives where God is writing their story, the counselor will not know them the way someone needs to know them. The counselor’s help will be limited and short-term. Counseling offices and social media sites shield people from being fully discerned. Of course, this is why some people prefer these contexts.
Indeed, there are elements of intimacy and help in these contexts, but intimacy is mostly superficial and distant. The limitations circumvent up-close, practical help because some of the essential pieces of soul care are not available in those contexts. Things like transparency, honesty, vulnerability, and unmasked truth are not entirely accessible.
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:19–23).
The Bible calls you to live differently from superficial counseling or cyber relationships. The Bible calls you to be intentionally intrusive in people’s lives so that Jesus Christ can transform both of you. Though you have all the resources you need to be a better relationship builder (2 Peter 1:3–4), there can be timidity about appropriating those things, which will keep you from enjoying the biblical, relational, and in-depth benefits you expect from the Christian family.
False intimacy begs the question, “Where do you begin to become a better relationship builder within God’s family?” It starts with your relationship with Jesus. You connect your ability to persevere with others directly to your relationship with God and how you appropriate His life into yours. A transformative relationship with the Lord will give you what you need to interact with any person regardless of how challenging it may be.
A key passage in understanding how to have strong biblical relationships is Hebrews 10:19–25. In the first part of the passage (Hebrews 10:19–23), the writer talks about how the right kind of life with Christ motivates and empowers you to have the correct life with others. A synopsis of the first part of this passage could go like this:
Harmonic living with others is proportional to your appropriation of Christ into your life. If you are appropriately applying the gospel to your life, you will be ready to practically live it out in a community, which is the second part of the passage—how to live well with others.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Before you can be in the right relationship with another person, you must first consider the other person. The word consider in this text means to become a student of the person in your life. Your goal is to exegete the person to know them well. You want to spend time thinking about them before you talk to them (James 1:19). All good Christian disciplers know and practice this method of relationship building.
Even while a person is talking, you are actively listening to what they are saying. You’re hearing what they are saying and not saying. You are discerning their presuppositions, worldview, categories, interpretative grid, and shaping influences. You observe their words because you want to know what their actions reveal about their hearts (Luke 6:45). This perspective is how Jesus listened to people.
He wanted to fully know what was in them (John 2:24–25) so He could speak the genuine truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). You cannot help a person if you have not spent time considering them (1 Corinthians 1:4). A healthy Christian community is always considering each other. God has called you to consider how to help other people to be a better reflection of Jesus Christ.
You can translate the words stir up as spur, provoke, or even irritate each other biblically—yes, irritate. According to the Hebrew writer’s context, the idea of irritating is not a sinful one. It is a command that means you are to be intentionally intrusive in other people’s lives. For example, if you have people around you who are not allowed to disagree with you, you will not grow.
If you are too touchy, insecure, self-important, image-conscious, or self-righteous, you are heading toward spiritual death. The sins that can most destroy you are the ones you cannot see. The most dangerous part of our sin problem is our blindness to our blindness.
The deceitfulness of sin causes us to minimize, rationalize, justify, and even not admit our sin. The mark of a mature Christian community is people who do not want to be blind to their sin. This kind of authenticity requires friends who are willing to go below the surface of each other’s lives.
The Greek word for comforting is parakaleo, which means to come alongside another person. Coming alongside another person is a critical thought in this text. While you are confronting or correcting an individual in the context of spurring them on to love and good works, they must know you care for them. The “for them” aspect of any relationship is at the heart of the gospel. The main reason any Christian is willing to receive the Lord’s corrective care is that he knows God is for him (Romans 5:8, 8:31; Hebrews 12:6).
It is unwise, unbiblical, and unkind to correct any person you are not for, which does not mean you are for their sin. You can be for a person but not for their sin. If you do not get this right in your heart and delivery, your corrective care may come across as punitive rather than redemptive. The essential practice in bringing restorative care is prayer. If you have not spent time praying for and about the person, then your correction may have a sinful edge to it.
In such cases, your care will come across as harsh or unkind. If you have spent time before the Father, bringing the annoying people in your life to Him, while pleading with Him to adjust your attitude, thoughts, words, and actions toward them, you will build them up, not tear them down (Ephesians 4:29).
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3–4).
You cannot draw near to God on our own. It would be best if you had a community to spur you on to change. The author of Hebrews knew the dire straits his readers were in, which is why he used strong language to motivate them toward love and good works. People were murdering them. His twofold aim in this text was to elevate the gospel’s power while giving them practical instruction on how to mobilize as a community to strengthen each other.
If you are not accessing the community of faith while seeking to have that community know you the way you need to be known, your sanctification is in danger of shipwrecking. There is no biblical argument otherwise. We have all experienced hurt by people, especially other Christians. Yes, we do shoot each other, don’t we? Nevertheless, this does not negate this passage’s truth or the need for total, immersive body ministry. I need people in my life who are willing to love me enough to bring corrective care to me. I am aware they will love me imperfectly, which is why I must know they are for me.
I can receive their imperfect care if they have demonstrated that they are on my side through their comforting encouragement. I am not asking my friends to agree with me, turn a blind eye to my sin, or coddle me. I am asking them to love God enough to be motivated to be used by Him to speak into my life, especially in areas where I am self-deceived. There is safety in this kind of community, and we must not be satisfied until we live in it.
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