I am writing to ask for advice. I have a Christian friend who is making some poor choices which seem to be leading straight to divorce. She’s pulling away from her Christian friends because they won’t support her choices/encouraging her towards divorce, though they love her deeply. How do I reach out to her in love and grace without approving of the decisions she is making? How do I speak truth in love?”
I think that people forget that behavior is a secondary symptom of something within the person. There is always a cause for behavior and effect of behavior, but the bystander only sees the behavior and, sometimes, the effect. God is more interested in what others cannot see. He’s after the root.
When we try to understand the choices of others, we inadvertently and unavoidably attribute our own perception and conceptual reasoning. We do this because we have, within us, the offensive intent that we see in others. It’s like looking into a mirror. If, however, we cannot wrap our minds around the choices of others, if we do not have that same intent, then we are at risk for dehumanizing them. This is dangerous because fear motivates our subsequent treatment of them. It’s like a Chinese finger trap. Maybe that’s why making blind determinations about the intent and inevitable result of another’s behavior is Biblically prohibited.
“Do not judge or you too will be judged.” -Matthew 7:1 NIV
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” – Luke 6:37 NIV
“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” – John 7:24 ESV
I know how trite that sounds. But, just because these scriptures have been mutilated by past misuse does not make them dismissible in their intent and instruction. These scriptures, especially within the context of the rest of the Bible, are all about freeing you up to love another without falling into the trap of acting contrary to your own faith and implicitly condemning them.
People dehumanize others when they don’t understand them. When a person becomes dehumanized in the eyes of another, they become like aliens and are treated accordingly. This is what allows room for one friend to say to another, “I don’t know who you are. The person I knew wouldn’t have done this.” Once this happens, all ground for empathy and compassion is overrun by the enemy. The one you were trying to save from destruction becomes isolated in an area you will not enter. You are solidifying what you were trying to avoid.
“If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.” – Jesus, John 12:47 ESV
We don’t know enough about the inner workings of the other person to risk appraising them in such a way that sweeps over their worth and attacks their belief in God’s love for them. We are action figures in the mission of the Gospel. If Jesus spent His time loving and not judging, why would any human choose to do something else? Are you better equipped than the Son to carry out the work of the Father?
“In the same way that you gave me a mission in the world, I give them a mission in the world. I’m consecrating myself for their sakes so they’ll be truth-consecrated in their mission.” -Jesus in his prayer located in John 17: 23 MSG
consecrated: declared sacred and formally dedicated to a divine purpose
It is hard to watch someone make poor choices, especially when they won’t listen to reason.
Here are a few things for you to remember in these situations. God has not, nor will He ever, leave them. A human being, in all of their disfunction, cannot silence the voice of God. This means that there is never a point when God is not speaking to him or her. Your friend can hear Him. There is nothing that you can do that He cannot. The one thing that you have been commissioned and are consecrated to do is to make sure that this person knows that God loves him or her. Any other message will be twisted into a weapon against your friend and that is not something you want to be a part of.
People will make their own decisions and, as painful as it may be to watch someone hurt, you can’t lose all faith in God’s sovereignty and fall apart on them. Peace, patience, and endurance are all included in the way of love (1 Cor. 13). Love “doesn’t keep score of the sins of others” because no one can stand under the weight of their own sins. Your friend may be wracking them up like nobody’s business and there’s no way to intercept her heart and make it like you think it should be. God may be allowing her to fall so that He can show her His grace and mercy. There is such a thing.
“In one way or another, God makes sure that we all experience what it means to be outside so that he can personally open the door and welcome us back in.” -Romans 11:32 MSG
The best thing that you can do for your friend is to make sure that she knows that there is nothing she can do that would make God love her less. There is no place she can go that He will not be. He has won the entire battlefield and no matter how bad it looks, she is His and He is hers. It may hurt you personally to see her hurt herself and others, but don’t confuse your own emotions for those of God’s. His only view of her is love and He’s not afraid of the damage she can cause. He’s at the end of her story and it’s not “damage” to Him.
Be there for her. Not because you agree with what she’s doing… she doesn’t even agree with what she’s doing… but because of your faith in Jesus and the Gospel. This is going to hurt and stretch you in a good way.
She may believe that she has found a way to ease a deeply rooted hurt. It’s not about anyone else, it’s about her and the flesh has an inherent drive to survive at any cost. Once she realizes that nothing she does in the flesh can ease the pain of the spirit, she’ll be back. Don’t give up on her and don’t try to drive her anywhere she’s not ready to go. Just be there for her. Like Jesus would be.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.– 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 MSG