The great thing about living in community is that we can walk with each other towards Christ-likeness. In fact, it’s a mantra around here that “true change comes from a relationship with Jesus and that best happens in community”. I see this most clearly in Hebrews 3.
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. (Hebrews 3:12-14)
Unbelief leads to rebellion. Rebellion leads to falling away. If you have come to share in Christ, you will hold your original confidence firm until the end (Hebrews 3:14). How is that accomplished? You don’t hold your confidence by pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. You don’t prevent yourself from wandering into unbelief by sheer willpower. You prevent yourself from having an evil, unbelieving heart by walking with others who are willing to take care that you don’t have an evil, unbelieving heart (Hebrews 3:12). God has ordained that you be engaged in a community that has a faith-sustaining ministry to you by seeing to it that you don’t have an evil, unbelieving heart.
This leads to “awkward conversations.” I’ve thought about modifying that language before. People talk of crucial conversations, intentional conversations, and numerous other ways of describing those interactions. For me, they feel awkward so I continue to call them that and then practice doing them anyway. Awkward conversations are a vital part of a community that is faith-sustaining.
Another thing we talk about at NCI that is central to awkward conversations is seeking understanding. This comes out of our core value of Universal Identity. Often, my perceptions about something I’m seeing in someone’s life are based on assumption, prejudice or my own feelings of perceived injustice. Universal Identity says I’m broken and I shouldn’t think of myself so high that I know everything without seeking understanding. Universal Identity says you are made in the image of God and I don’t want to let you feel any less than that. Seeking understanding is a good way to approach someone by asking questions and giving them an opportunity to confess sin, and explore their own brokenness. It’s a great way to avoid the pitfall of two people building their trenches and lobbing comments at each other like grenades.
Funnily enough, there are many examples of these kinds of conversations in Scripture. Even the God of the universe who is all knowing often approaches these confrontations with a series of questions. He already knows the answers to these questions. He asks questions to give man the opportunity to pause and process and then confess, repent and do justice with their own thoughts and actions:
Adam – But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (Genesis 3:9-11)
Caan – Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” (Genesis 4:9)
Moses – But Moses said to the LORD, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? (Exodus 4:10-11)
Job – “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. (Job 38:4) “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail, which I have reserved for the time of trouble, for the day of battle and war? What is the way to the place where the light is distributed, or where the east wind is scattered upon the earth? (Job 38:22-24) “Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, that a flood of waters may cover you? Can you send forth lightnings, that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are’? (Job 38:34-35)
Jesus does something similar with the Samaritan woman – Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” (John 4:16-18)
As you do faith-sustaining ministry to your brothers and sisters that Hebrews 3 calls you to, consider asking questions – first to check your own assessment is just and second to allow a safe space for the person to pause, reflect, process and then walk with you towards repentance, forgiveness and healing.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. (James 5:16)
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (James 1:19-20)