Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Cornerstone Questions: How To Approach Someone Who Isn't Interested?

I shared last week one of the questions I received as part of my sermon series on Church Discipline. Today, I share one more that I think most of us have experienced at some point in the past. 

Question: How do you handle "Discipline" when the person is clearly not "approachable." You know they are not wanting to hear from you. They are aware that they are sinning or outside of God's will and they don't want your input. What do you do?

My answer to this one will be very simple, yet difficult to put into action. The basic answer is that Jesus tells us that when our brother sins, we are to go to him and tell him his fault (Matt. 18:15). Jesus never specifies whether they want to hear it or not. My experience is that most people who are in sin don't want to hear it. But that is why Jesus gives us several steps in the process of Church Discipline to help wake them up to the reality of their sin.

So, my basic answer is that we are called to engage the process of Church Discipline with those that call themselves Christian whether they want it or not. That's the simple answer. But the difficult part is putting it into action.

Ask Them Questions
One of the things I would point out is that since we are not omniscient, we can easily misread whether someone is "approachable" or not. And so, one of the ways I might approach someone who I think is unapproachable is to ask them questions. I wouldn't go in accusing, but go in searching. I am going into that conversation interested in their life.

In fact, one of the questions I might end up asking at some point is whether or not I could point something out in their life. I might say something like this: "Friend, I was wondering if I could have your permission to point out something I have noticed in your life that might be in contradiction to your testimony of Jesus Christ?" The bottom line is that you are putting the ball in their court and forcing them to verbalize their objection to you being involved in their life instead of you assuming they don't want you involved based on some external non-verbal signals. Maybe you have just misread the signals.

Maybe Your Not The One To Talk To Them
Could it be possible that they may receive confrontation from someone else easier than they would from you? Maybe they feel on the defensive with you because of something you have done or said in the past. Maybe the conversations may need to start with you apologizing for something you have done to them. Maybe they don't want to listen to you and are not approachable to you because they do not trust you. Could any of these be in the mix? If so, maybe you need to work the soil of that relationship a bit to garner the trust to talk to them about things in their life.

If they know they are sinning, that might be a good thing. Maybe there is someone else that can help them. Maybe they are getting help from others. Check your heart. God may use you from time to time, but do you feel as though God needs you to be the one to solve others problems? He doesn't. He can and does work through many different people.

Are They Just Hard-Hearted?
Then again, time and apologies do not always solve everything. You may do everything you can to make that relationship trustworthy and they may never want to hear that they are sinning. At this point, your trust is in the process God has given to us. It is in the patient process of the 4-steps of Church Discipline. Trust in it. Allow God to work in it.

I have been through some of the painful last steps before and the people never wanted to talk. But it was still our calling to beg them to repent. We never wanted to go to tell the congregation. We never wanted to remove them from church. And so we went with compassionate hearts, calling them to repent and change their ways. Sometimes, it only ended up being a short conversation in a doorway of their house because they didn't even want to let us in. But we had to force the conversation to happen and then trust God to work.

One of the things I have learned in the past several years is that I am not the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian. I have been way too quick to try to change people instead of being patient to see how God was going to work in their lives. Pray. Be patient. Have the difficult conversations. Trust God to work.

Is it easy? No. Sin is never easy to deal with, that's why Jesus had to come rescue us. 

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