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When it comes to the problems that I see in folks who are close to me, I am more passive than aggressive with them. Though people who come to our forums for help, I give them directive counsel, but for the most part, that is not how I relate to my closest friends. Counseling situations or forum contexts require clear, directive, “get to the point” answers because it’s the seeker who is seeking help, and they don’t expect you to beat around the bush with them.
But the way that I live my life with friends and family is passive, as in I don’t press Christ on them. I do not ignore their problems, which would be unloving, but I also don’t try to force righteousness on them since I’m not the one who grants transformation. Cf. 2 Timothy 2:24-25; 1 Corinthians 3:6. There are many angles to this “sanctification dilemma” among friends and family.
For example, it depends on what they know about God, Christ, redemption, heaven, hell, and the need for salvation. If they understand the problem (their sin) and the solution, which is Jesus Christ, then I don’t keep sounding the horn for them to change every time we are together. I have seen too many people “make a profession of faith” so their family would stop talking to them about salvation. I’ve seen other individuals avoid the person who keeps pressing the issue, or they tell the “pressing person” what they want to hear, so they will let it go.
I typically take the position of a sovereigntist: I believe God will do what is right. For example, I rarely worry about a person’s salvation, even my children’s. I honestly don’t. Their knowledge and acceptance of Christ is not a pressure point in our relationship because I don’t make it one. Passivity does not mean that I never say anything to those whom I love. There are two sinful ditches in view here.
I have shared Christ with my children. They know what their parents believe. We do not avoid their need for Jesus. But we also rest in God’s ability to save.
I think about how God saved me: I was a “zillion miles from God” and had no clue how to become a Christian. But God regenerated me. I say it like this:
I was living in the country, on a rural road that had no painted lines, in a double-wide trailer, and I knew virtually nothing about the Bible, other than the movie, The Ten Commandments.” But God imposed Himself into my life, and I became a Christian.
Some parent’s worry too much about their children, and in many of those cases, it convolutes how they relate to them, as well as how the parents relate to God. The over-worrying parent has an insufficient relationship with Christ.
If you have a friend or family member who is not walking with God on a specific matter, make sure they know that the Bible has an answer to their problem. Be clear. Be loving. Be truthful with them.
Then seek other contexts and opportunities to be their friend, without making your relationship contingent on them “getting right with God.” Remember that God loved you while you were a sinner (Romans 5:8).
Of course, I’m not talking about a person with a sinful lifestyle like adultery or abuse where your soul care needs to be amped up with more aggression, including intervention. You never let the long-term detrimental sins like those continue without imposing yourself into the situation.
But most sins are personal struggles that a person has and what they need the most is a loving friend who will walk with them through their challenges. You can engage them about their problems in various contexts—as the Spirit leads, but the majority of your time should be relating to them, as you ask God to help you solidify your relationship with the person.
Part of your objective is to build a strong relational bridge with this person so you can carry the truth over to him in the future. If you know that you need to rebuke or correct a person, it would be wise and caring to have a strong bridge between the two of you so you can carry these weightier matters to him at the appropriate time.
Too often, a person does not have a stable relationship to carry truth over, but they launch the truth with a trebuchet. Or they nag the person so much that it eventually severs their connection.
You must not map your preferences and timelines over a person, expecting them to think like you and become like you. People do not change that way. It is wiser to invest in the relationship, overlooking as much as you can while building for a day when the relationship is strong, and the person wants to talk to you because they know you will listen and not try to make them meet your desires.
The way we do this with our children is by making our conversations about what they want to talk about rather than what we want to say, e.g., are you a Christian, why don’t you (fill in the blank)?
Many parents make this mistake. It becomes all about the parent’s preferences, desires, wishes, and fears, which can manipulate the child to bend to the parent’s preferences because it becomes the path of least resistance for the child. That relational dynamic is broken, though the “truth-teller” rarely knows it.
(This podcast is about your friends and family members, not toxic relationships. I’m talking about folks you genuinely love, and they care for you, and you want to see them change.)
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).