We long for companionable community and hope to find it in the church. At the same time, we hate the church because it often can wound us deeply. Counselors and leaders can often wound with their words, attitudes, actions, and demands. Our relationship with those in church authority bring us face to face with life and death issues where our religious sensibilities can be so easily wounded. We are all aware that a critical remark, a gesture of rejection, or an act of impatience can be remembered for life by those wounded by it.
People are starving for meaning in life. They long for comfort. They need a word to console their hearts. They long for forgiveness and reconciliation. They long for healing. Counselors and leaders must constantly remember the greatest value they bring to ministry is compassion. We must look to Jesus for the example of leadership expressed in compassion.
God’s command to love others is a reflection of the love He continually has for us and the intimate involvement He has with us. This is seen is in John 13:17: “If you know these things blessed are you if you do them.” “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love,” (John 15:10). “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full,” (John 15:11). “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you,” (John 15:16). We are to have a God-imitating mind toward all people, which is willing to scripturally act on behalf of their best interests, even at personal cost or sacrifice, to advance their spiritual welfare.
We must keep in mind the purpose of being a disciple of Jesus, a disciple making leader, or counselor for Jesus Christ, if we don’t we will lose sight of what it means to love. We don’t want to be left just merely doing good deeds as good as that is.
Love is epitomized in the cross, for God was willing to make the supreme sacrifice to save sinners He loves (Colossians 2:13-14). The cross leaves us without a doubt that this love was costly – it cost the Son of God His life (1 John 4:9-10). The love of God is not a detached emotion it is a love that pays the price. The spiritual intention of Jesus’ death and resurrection was a passion for the glory of God the Father. The spiritual culmination of the cross was the redemption and restoration of sinful man into His own likeness. Good deeds are to be performed on the stage of daily life against the backdrop of a cross. Notice the spiritual motive in Jesus’ command to us regarding good works. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven,”(Matthew 5:16).
The cross is the amplitude of this love. As John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.”
It is effortless to love when you can simply enjoy life with your beloved, and never have any difficulties or conflicts, and never having to make any significant sacrifices. It takes love of real constitution to suffer deeply for someone who is not worthy (Romans 5:6-8). This is the great biblical truth that God’s love is not a love that is unsubstantial; it is a love that sacrifices to bring salvation. It is a love that is constantly acting in the best interests of God’s people (1 John 4:10-11).
Love is not full-bodied, God-imitating love unless it sacrifices for the advancement of what God is doing in the other person’s life. We are called to be disciples of Jesus Christ to become like Him and then called to be disciple-makers like Jesus Christ to call others to be like Him. Everything we do in life must move to this end.
As disciples, counselors and leaders we are all fallen sinners in need of understanding and compassion. When we are hurt or disappointed by a word or gesture may we not hold it in our hearts allowing it to fester to bitterness. May we go to the person privately as Matthew 18:15 directs us to confirm the intent of what was said or done. May we never make assumptions without getting a verification. We are on a journey of faith together. May we uphold one another and keep short accounts so sin is brought to the surface for repentance and love is shown broadly.
When a word from another hurts you, have you sought to gather information about the person, their situation, and make sure you are seeing things clearly? Have you chosen to love as the Lord would call you to love?