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It does not matter where you go or what you do; conflict will always be part of our lives. The only way to successfully stay away from these conflicts is to stay away from people, which is not possible or wise. And even if we could avoid community, we would continue simmering in the war that happens inside of all of us (James 4:1–3). We cannot escape human conflict until God glorifies us in the hereafter. “Oh, wretched man that I am!” Because of our friction-filled lifestyles, some folks seek inferior constructs to satisfy their God-given desire for community.
Social media allows people to engage others while protecting themselves from hurt. You can unfriend or unfollow someone with the click of a button. At best, these cyber relationships are partial ones. Even our internet ministry at Life Over Coffee is insufficient: we can only hear limited perspectives, usually one-sided, since the other party is rarely part of the conversations we have on our forums. We’re unable to enter into their worlds—a core component of the gospel relationship building. Jesus entered a real world with real lives; we meet with our friends in cyberspace, always distant from them, limited in how we can help them (Proverbs 18:17).
Even counseling is a limited context where the counselor is trying to know the real story of a person. Without entering into the fuller narrative of their lives where God is writing their stories, the counselor will not know them the way someone needs to know them. The counselor’s help will be limited and short-term. Counseling offices and social media sites shield people from being fully discerned. These limitations circumvent up-close, practical help; there are essential pieces of soul care unavailable in those contexts. I speak of transparency, honesty, vulnerability, and unmasked truth. You cannot have these values in partial, disguised, or inadequate constructs.
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:19–23).
The Bible calls us to live differently from superficial cyber or counseling relationships. The Bible calls us to be intentionally intrusive in people’s lives so that Jesus Christ can transform us. Though we have all the resources we need to be a better relationship builder (2 Peter 1:3–4), there can be timidity in appropriating those things, which will keep us from enjoying intentionally intrusive living—the relational, in-depth benefits we expect from the Christian family, and because of the prevalence of false intimacy, the problem begs the question, “Where do you begin to become a better relationship builder within God’s family?”
We connect our ability to persevere with others directly to our relationship with God and how we appropriate His life to ours. A transformative relationship with the Lord will give us what we need to interact with anyone, regardless of how challenging it may be. Perhaps you can invert the solution by thinking about an improper relationship with God. If someone struggles relationally with others, and it’s a pattern, that individual needs to address their relationship with God. An inadequate relationship with God is the soil that will grow weeds in human relationships.
A key passage in understanding how to have solid biblical relationships is Hebrews 10:19-25. In the first part of the passage (Hebrews 10:19–23), the writer talks about how the right kind of life with Christ motivates and empowers us to have the correct life with others. A synopsis of the first part of this passage could go like this: Harmonic living with others is proportional to our appropriation of Christ into our lives. If we apply the gospel appropriately to our lives, we will be ready to practically live it out in a community, which is the second part of the passage—how to live well with others.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Before we can be in the right relationship with another person, we must first consider the other person. The word consider in this text means to become a student of the person in your life. Your goal is to exegete the person to know them well. You want to spend time thinking about them before you talk to them (James 1:19). All good Christian disciplers know and practice this method of relationship building. Even while a person is talking, you actively listen to what they are saying. And not saying! You are discerning their presuppositions, worldview, categories, interpretative grid, and shaping influences.
You observe their words because you want to know what their actions reveal about their hearts (Luke 6:45). This perspective is how Jesus listened to people. He wanted to know what was in them (John 2:24–25) so He could speak genuine truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). You cannot help a person if you have not spent time considering them (1 Corinthians 1:4). A healthy Christian community is always considering each other. God has called us to consider how to help other people to be a better reflection of Jesus Christ.
You can translate the words stir up as spur, provoke, or even irritate each other biblically—yes, irritate. According to the Hebrew writer’s context, the idea of irritating is not a sinful one. It is a command that means you are to be intentionally intrusive in other people’s lives. For example, if you have people around you who are not allowed to disagree with you, you will not grow. You are heading toward spiritual death if you are too touchy, insecure, self-important, image-conscious, or self-righteous.
The sins that can most destroy us are the ones we cannot see. The most dangerous part of our sin problem is our blindness to our blindness. The deceitfulness of sin causes us to minimize, rationalize, justify, and even not admit our sin. The mark of a mature Christian community is people who do not want to be blind to their sins. This kind of authenticity requires friends who are willing to go below the surface of each other’s lives.
The Greek word for comforting is parakaleo, which means to come alongside another person. Coming alongside another person is a critical thought in this text. While confronting or correcting individuals in the context of spurring them on to love and good works, they must know we care for them. The “for them” aspect of any relationship is at the heart of the gospel. The main reason any Christian is willing to receive the Lord’s corrective care is that he knows God is for him (Romans 5:8, 8:31; Hebrews 12:6). It is unwise, unbiblical, and unkind to correct any person we are not for which does not mean we are for their sin. We can be for a person but not for their sin. If we do not get this right in our hearts and deliveries, our corrective care may be punitive rather than redemptive.
Of course, the essential practice in bringing restorative care is prayer. If we have not spent time praying for and about the person, our correction may have a sinful edge. In such cases, our care will come across as harsh or unkind. Suppose we have spent time before the Father, bringing the annoying people in our lives to Him while pleading with Him to adjust our attitudes, thoughts, words, and actions toward them. In that case, we will build them up, not tear them down (Ephesians 4:29). Paul provides a helpful reminder when helping others.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God (2 Corinthians 1:3–4).
We cannot do sanctification alone. We must have a community of loving, Christlike, intrusive friends to spur us on to change. The author of Hebrews knew his readers’ dire straits, which is why he used strong language to motivate them toward love and good works. People were murdering them. His twofold aim in this text was to elevate the gospel’s power while giving them practical instruction on mobilizing as a community to strengthen each other. If we are not accessing the community of faith while seeking to have that community know us the way we need to be known, our sanctification is in danger of shipwrecking. There is no biblical argument otherwise.
We have all experienced hurt by people, especially other Christians. Yes, we do shoot each other, don’t we? Nevertheless, this does not negate this passage’s truth or the need for total, immersive body ministry. I need people in my life who are willing to love me enough to bring corrective care to me. I am aware they will love me imperfectly, which is why I must know they are for me. I can receive their imperfect care if they have demonstrated that they are on my side through their comforting encouragement. I am not asking my friends to agree with me, turn a blind eye to my sin, or coddle me. I am asking them to love God enough to be motivated to be used by Him to speak into my life, especially in areas where I am self-deceived. There is safety in this kind of community, and we must not be satisfied until we live in it.
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).