There are times when as a family in Christ and in love for one another we have to have difficult conversations. I’ve been on all three sides of these talks. I’ve been the one who had to hear the hard stuff, say the hard stuff and witness it. It was never easy. But it has always worked out to God’s glory.
Paul had to tell the church at Corinth some very tough things in a letter referred to as “The Letter of Tears.” He refers to the letter in chapter 7 and how happy he is at how the church handled it. We do not know what the letter was about specifically, except that one person wronged another person in such a manner that the entire church was affected and Paul had to write a letter which caused a great deal of angst. But because he wrote that letter in love and with The Spirit, and because the church received it in love and with The Spirit, they soon turned that pain to joy.
Verses 8-11 read,
“For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. 9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.
10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 11 For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter”
The church didn’t read the letter and become indignant and defensive. They read the letter and recognized the truth of it. They knew Paul loved them dearly and he wasn’t writing to hurt them. They read the letter and were grieved, not a worldly self-pitying grief, but a godly cleansing grief that led to repentance.
None of us is perfect. Sometimes we do things that we need to repent of. When what we do affects others, it is especially important to stop, repent, and grow. Maybe you are on the receiving end of some difficult exhortation about your behavior or attitude. Receive with love, listen with the Holy Spirit and remember Jesus’ glory is the goal. It isn’t about how good you look, but about how awesome God is.
If you must be the person to deliver tough counsel, remember to do so in complete love and humility. The person you are warning is in need of love and correction, not pride and “I told you so.” Go into it with much prayer, lots of love, and remember to allow The Holy Spirit to do the talking. Remember the goal is not to hurt them for your sake. It is to let them see the truth and the error and spark a godly grief that will lead to repentance.
If you are the witness, be supportive, loving, and go into it with prayer as well.
We are family. We have one Spirit, one Lord, and one God. We have the same commission, same commandments and same goals. The love between is us is real and deep and wide. Pursue Love, not self. Don’t forget love, no matter which side of the conversation you will fall on. Chances are at some point in your walk, you will be on all of them.