Wednesday, January 20, 2016

What Not To Say To One Who Is Suffering

Many people do not know what to say to a friend, neighbor, or coworker who is suffering. That is okay. There are times when we really do not need to say anything. If we are present, if we make ourselves available, our mere presence will often communicate our concern better than our words ever could.

But we normally will want to say something. Here are some suggestions for what to say, and, even more, for statements to avoid.

It is best not to say, “I know exactly how you feel.” None of us ever knows exactly how the other person feels. Every situation is different. It may be fine to suggest that you have faced similar frustrations, but do not claim to know how the other person is feeling. If they want to talk, let them talk. Do not cut off their effort to express their feelings by claiming that you already know those feelings.

Do not claim to know how this suffering fits into God’s plan. Yes, we believe in an all-knowing, all-powerful God. Yes, whatever happens, he has allowed it to happen – he could have prevented it, would have prevented it if it was inherently incompatible with what is ultimately best for us. But how that all works, we do not know. And it could be that we will never find out. “We will understand it better by and by” may be generally true, but it is not an absolute promise. Job was never given an explanation of the troubles that were allowed to come into his life. We need to be careful of claiming to understand what might be left a mystery.

Do not offer to help in a vague and non-committed way. Get direct and to the point. “Can I help with _____.” Make it sound like it is your privilege to help (it is a privilege, after all, Acts 20:35). Or better yet, if the need is clear, just fill the need without even asking. If people might need food, take them some. If someone is injured, mow the lawn without being asked. Don’t make people ask for help with tasks that are obvious. Just do it.

Do not just tell people that you are praying for them, pray for them. Pray with them. Then go home and pray more. But pray with them, right then and there.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Disfellowshipping the Church

There are many perverse forms of thinking that are popular in our world today. There are many ideas that are accepted as truth by the masses which are totally unreasonable. Let’s take just one example.

Why is it that the church needs to justify its action if the church disfellowships a member, but an individual member can disfellowship the whole church without ever giving a reason?

It happens all the time. People walk away from the church without saying why, without any attempt to explain their reasons. But, if the church chooses to remove someone from the list of members – no matter how inactive the member may have been, no matter how long they may have been living an ungodly life, no matter how many times they may have been warned – people will criticize. 

This makes no sense.

If the relationship between the church and its members is a matter of such minor importance that members are free to leave because someone looked at them cross-eyed, or simply because they became more interested in something else, then why should the church leadership be expected to give reasons for the decision to disfellowship a member? If no reason need be given when leaving the church, then no reason need be given for setting someone out of the church.

Of course, I do not believe for a moment that the leadership should disfellowship anyone without good reason, and without making an attempt to reconcile the situation. Clearly, to disfellowship without sound reasons, and without an attempt at reconciliation, would be sin. But that last sentence is true, whether it is the church disfellowshipping the individual or it is the individual disfellowshipping the church.

To leave the church without stating the reasons, or without making a sincere attempt at reconciliation, is sin.