GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICALS
Number 630 • April 15, 2021
PROBLEMS THE CHURCH NEEDS TO TALK ABOUT – 8
ATTITUDES TOWARD PROBLEM PEOPLE, THOSE WHO NEED TO BE “FIXED”
Dislike and prejudice can cause distrust and discrimination and other serious problems in human relationships. Even though they are taught to love and trust and develop fellowship among themselves Christians rarely escape the problem – even congregations and churches are not exempt from prejudice and preference for and against each other. How should the church deal with problem people in its membership?
For much of my life as a preacher and teacher of the gospel of Christ I have tried to be a people-fixer, showing concern for the spiritual rights and welfare of the people of God. It has taken me many years to arrive at this conclusion, but now I know: I am not able to fix people. I am not required by God to do so, though I am required to try. That is not to say that people who aren’t “right” can’t be fixed. Broken people can be fixed – dysfunctional, or malfunctioning persons can become whole again. But, and this is an item of major importance to the successful fixing of any person, the person probably cannot fix himself, without help from outside himself. Yes, one may adjust, may accept himself as he is, but he is not morally/spiritually fixed. The only one who can really fix a broken human life is the Lord Jesus Christ. God in Christ is the great Salvager and Fixer of humans. But even God can’t fix a person against that person’s will. Unless one cooperates obediently with God he will remain broken, never be made well and whole.
Our responsibility as Christians, and as the church of the Lord – we dare not shirk it or deny it – is to point out the truth, be willing to help and actually offer to help the person who needs to be fixed, salvaged, healed and made spiritually whole by the Lord. In Galatians 6:1-10, with a few words extra from 5:6 and 13, Paul provides a good pattern for dealing with problem people. There are several key factors we must understand and apply: sensitivity, response, motivation, and consistency. Let’s examine them, but not in the order just given. We will look first at motivation.
THE PROPER MOTIVATION FOR INVOLVEMENT WITH PROBLEM PEOPLE (THAT IS, PEOPLE WITH PROBLEMS, AND PEOPLE WHO ARE PROBLEMS).
Galatians 5:6, 13 and 6:9a, 10.
- Faith in God: accepting what He calls right and good, trying to do what He requires and approves. 5:6. 6:9a
- Love for others: concern for the well being, willingness to supply the needs of others, to be of genuine service to others. 5:13
- Desire to do what is good for others, both Christians and non-Christians. 6:10
- It is appropriate to think of the impact of well-doing upon the doer himself. In due time we shall be rewarded – we shall reap what we have sown. 6:9b
- We will be much more effective if we learn to think of people as opportunities for Christian service (6:10) rather than as problems to be solved or endured.
SENSITIVITY AND OBSERVATION BRING AWARENESS.
Take note: we are not recommending curiosity (morbid or otherwise), and we certainly do not recommend inquisitive meddling in things that are none of one’s business. I would be the first to tell a nosey busybody to back off and stay away. Sometimes you just have to look a person in the eye and say, “Why do you ask? Why do you want to know?” “Is it really any of your business.”
Sensitivity means being able to tell when someone is happy and content. It means knowing when one is troubled, anxious, frustrated, or hurting too. It must include ability to know when someone is being tempted, may yield or has yielded to some temptation – when someone is overtaken in a fault. (6:1a).
We should be unobtrusive and circumspect in observation of others lest our interest in their welfare be misunderstood and resented. Parents learn to watch for mood changes and a multitude of signs indicating a need for help in their children – but shouldn’t be perceived as “spying.” on them.
Husbands and wives should know each other so well that they become immediately aware of even small but significant changes. Christians can learn to be observant of others without being intrusive and abusive, even when truth is disguised and hidden.
Sensitivity and awareness require a willingness to be involved with the other person, willing to weep and rejoice as is appropriate (Romans 12:15), willing to be vulnerable to personal hurt in behalf of others, honorable in the use of any information which may be shared by the other person.
An observation: most people are so wrapped up in themselves, their own desires, needs, and circumstances that they never become aware of others. And, of course, some make it impossible for anyone to help them. They refuse to acknowledge the problem and refuse to allow others to be problem-solvers with and for them. But many others can be, want to be, should be, and will be helped by those whose motives are right and whose sensitive hearts are touched. That leads us directly to the next in our list of key factors in dealing with problem people.
MAKE APPROPRIATE RESPONSE TO PROBLEMS AND FAILURES OF OTHERS.
Galatians 6:1b, 2, 5
We do not shoot our wounded. That expression is self-evident. Surely none of us would be guilty of kicking someone who is already down, of stepping on the necks of the oppressed, or “adding insult to injury” to any.
Rescue and restore such a one, in a spirit of meekness (6:1b). There is a difference between hating the sin and hating the sinner, and especially when the sinner is a brother (2 Thessalonians 3:14-15). No, we don’t shoot the wounded and fallen. We do not want to see them needlessly suffering, needlessly lost. We want to bring them back alive — bring them back to life. We want to restore them to health and to their proper place with God. We sing: “Down in the human heart…feelings lie buried that grace can restore … Touched by a loving hand, wakened by kindness, chords that are broken can vibrate once more.” Every sinner, whether or not he is a brother, is a soul in need of salvation. A spiritual person will do whatever he can to save a soul from death and to cover (make it possible for the sinner to be forgiven for) the multitude of his sins (James 5:19-20).
Consistency is imperative. There must not be a double standard, one for yourself and a different one for others – don’t be hypocritical. When you set out to rebuke, restore, and reclaim another who is caught up in something wrong, be sure to look to yourself, so that you will not be tempted and drawn into the wrong thing yourself (6:1c) or do something wrong while trying to correct others. Each must bear his own burden (6:5), and each must share or help to bear the burdens of others (6:2). That is not a contradiction. Burden in 6:5 is PHORTION, the portion or share for which the person alone is responsible. It cannot be given to anyone else. Burdens in 6:2 is BAREE, weight that can be distributed and shared, carried by many so as to mitigate and relieve the strain on any one. The lesson: much of our burden can be eased by others (and by the Lord), but no one else can take away the part assigned specifically to each one.
CONCLUSION: No doubt there are people who are hurting, who feel that they are being neglected and ignored, who are sure that nobody cares. If it is true, if you simply do not care about others, then remember that you ought to be doing for them whatever you would want done for you if you were in similar circumstances (Matthew 7:12). If there are people who need help and you are not aware of it, then perhaps you should be praying for the Lord to open your eyes, open your ears, and open your heart – to increase your sensitivity and awareness. But, if we can repeat something we emphasized earlier… No one can be helped – fixed and brought back to spiritual health – as long as he refuses to admit that anything is wrong, or that he needs, wants or is willing to receive any help. One can build barriers, put up walls, and close doors to those who are able and willing to help (and still try to blame them for not helping). The only one who can really fix a broken human life is the Lord Jesus Christ. God in Christ is the great Salvager and Fixer of humans. But even God can’t fix a person who doesn’t want to be fixed. One who will not cooperate obediently with God will never be made well and whole.
I must say it again: my responsibility is to point out the truth, be willing to help and actually offer to help the person who needs to be fixed, salvaged, healed and made morally and spiritually whole by the Lord. My personal philosophy is like that advertised by a local hospital: If you can’t get help from me, please, try to get help somewhere. To sum up in a few words: let your love and faith lead you to do for everybody what is good (do not do for anybody something that is not good). Be willing to accept whatever is good from everyone, and do not refuse or reject anything that is good for your soul. <><>