Have you ever had to have a tough conversation with someone you cared deeply about? More than likely it is something we’ll have to do on many occasions in our life. You’re a manager? Yup. Parent? Absolutely. Friend? More than likely.
The church is no exception. We’re called to live in community with one another. That can be messy. People are messy. Process is messy. Spiritual growth is messy. But to be in relationship with one another means we are actively involved in one another’s lives. When we get off course or are treading down a dangerous path, we have a responsibility because of love to correct each other when needed. In fact, a church without loving correction is really a form of rejection. It just means people don’t care enough to say anything.
Paul cared deeply about those he led to Jesus, even when he’d moved to a different town. In 2 Corinthians 7:8-11, he’s reflecting on a tough letter he wrote to them because they’d begun to be deceived by some destructive voices. He’s willing to take the risk of saying the hard things because love demands it. If a surgeon knew their patient had cancer and needed surgery, you would expect them to talk to them, even if they knew the patient would be upset on hearing the information. To avoid telling them would be malpractice. Brother’s and sister’s in Christ have a similar responsibility to one another. If we love and if we care, we’ll take the risk and say the hard things, even if they cause some temporary pain.
Knowing the point of the conversation is important. When it is about our spiritual growth (or lack of), our point is change to be more like Jesus. Paul calls this “godly sorrow.” In other words, a realization that where I’m at is not where I should be. Because the Spirit is in me, He enables me to change and grow. “Worldly sorrow” only produced hopelessness and guilt.
If you have to have a tough conversation with someone, you can’t control how they’ll respond. However, there’s some things you can do to help them receive it better.
- Your conversation must have a motive of love and be born in prayer. The motive isn’t just getting them to “do right.” My heart for them is a joy that is known only in walking closely with Jesus. So I cover them and the conversation in prayer long before it happens with them.
- My language is intentional and illustrative. Choose your words very carefully. Language is important and carries meaning. Perhaps writing the core of it down will help you weigh your words. Clarity on what has caused the pain is important. Don’t dance around the issue(s).
- My goal is godly sorrow that leads to repentance, not their destruction. Cast a vision for change in their life. What would it look like if they embraced their message. Remind them of their identity as a child of God.
- Through the process it must be undeniable that I love them. Use words of affirmation and relationship. Don’t you receive hard truths from people better when you know it is born in love?
Need additional guidance? Check out “Caring Enough to Confront” by David Augsberger.