The question I’ve been pondering these days is how to mix empathy with discipline. In relating to a spouse, disciplining a child, building up a disciple, I believe we will encounter a conflict within our minds as to how you can show understanding while enforcing a counter belief. While sorting through such issues in our mind, we find ourselves falling on either extreme; giving in, being “whipped” (or “whoopa” as Chanler Bing would say), having no backbone to someone who is seen as narrow-minded, stubborn and arrogant. I personally don’t want to be characterized in either category.

So the question goes back to how we are able to show empathy while expressing an opposing standpoint. First of all, accountability requires a hard hand and a gentle ear, it is up to us to know when to speak and when to listen, when to argue and when to back down, when to hug and when to walk away. But that’s stating the obvious, the hard part is knowing when to do what. Timing is everything. I wish I came close to understanding the power of timing for it actually makes all the difference in finding peace during conflicts, in critiquing someone’s work or performance, or in correcting a person in his/her sin.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all we needed to do is enforce the law every chance we got? There would be no need for discernment and no use for sensitivity. Have you ever encountered people who do everything by the book, who see everything as black and white, true or false? I commend them for their bold beliefs and strong opinions however absolute certainty can either be the result of great wisdom or plain naivety. On the flip side, wouldn’t it be nice if we avoided every sticky conflict that lingered among those in our circle of friends. Ignorance is bliss. Today’s society uses tolerance as an excuse to avoid the tension that comes with confronting issues among friends. We would much rather let someone dig their own grave then to have one awkward conversation that could possibly either turn them off or open their eyes.

I would say that the best example in knowing how to balance these two extremes is to look at how God speaks to us. Isn’t it interesting how God speaks to us through Rhema (spoken word) rather than simply Logos (written Word) alone. God could have simply published that Bible, avoided the hassle of conversing with us and commanded us to just do everything that is written. However, he knew the importance of communicating certain words, ideas or corrections in a timely manner. God lays out his standard by giving us his Logos, but he also uses wisdom and sensitivity in knowing when to reveal different aspects of the written word through his Rhema.

We can take two important points from this perspective. The first is to make our standard and moral code clear and obvious through the life we live. Considering how God provided us with his is written word (Logos), we also need to make our lives a clear script of what we stand for. Unless you want to write a book entitled (your name)’s Book of Moral Standard, the only way people will know what we stand for is simply by the way we live. So let the life you live yell and scream the standards you uphold, let it echo so loud that it paints a clear picture to those around you of what you think is right and wrong. The second point is to know whom you are speaking to. I believe that God reveals certain convicting words to us in perfect time because he knows our circumstances inside out. He knows what we are ready for, and what we would fail to handle. Half the battle in correcting a friend is understanding him/her. Without understanding you treat correction with greater regard then the one in whom you are correcting. You become one who loves the law more than those in whom you enforce those laws upon. If I give a strong corrective biblical word to a brother “…but have not love, I am nothing.” (1 Cor 13:1-3).The RHEMA word of God has everything to do with Timing. God is the master at conflict resolution, restoration to the backslidden, and correction to the rebel. He has converted the hardest of hearts into pudding by revealing his word (standard) in the flesh through the life of Jesus and by knowing what gives us joy, makes us love, pushes us to climb, and drags us to our knees in repentance. He shows us and knows us.

What an amazingly gracious and sovereign God we serve.


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