Beginning - Having Critical Conversations
II Samuel 12:1-9
And the LORD sent Nathan to David. He came to him and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb a fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight?
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
Proverbs 11:14, 15:22,
Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety. Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisors they succeed.
But this command I gave them: ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.’ But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward. From the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt to this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day. Yet they did not listen to me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck. They did worse than their fathers.
I would like to explore two central questions in the process of saving the saved. But first things first - there must be a beginning. I believe we begin by acknowledging that something is there. The very next step is to engage and connect in meaningful and mutual dialogue over what is "there" means. By that I mean asking the right questions. Honest and difficult questions intended to move the process from discovering and to recovering. This is and always has been a biblical process that God has intended for the spiritual health and well-being of those who love and serve Him.
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be conceited. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Brothers and Sisters, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.
The New Testament teaching for the Church of Jesus here is plain. This teaching is entirely relevant and needed for the ministry of reconciliation and restoration - saving the saved. It’s time to reach out and start the difficult conversations with anyone who feels they are trending or drifting away from the very things they have believed in. These are extremely healthy conversations for the church of Jesus to have with its believers. But, more than just talk is needed - love is needed, attention is needed, compassion is needed, prayer and hope are needed. As we are saying, it is time to save the saved.
Why do we have such difficulty with having difficult conversations?
There was once a time where the tough stuff in life was something we had to face in person. There was not choice with difficult conversations - that is the way it was, and for good reason. Talking to a parent over poor behavior, a teacher about a bad grade, a police officer about speeding violation, or a pastor about our struggle with sin were all usually difficult, but healthy and above all necessary for the process of emotional and social maturity and growth as a person. Whether it was behavior, expectations, sin, breakups, getting fired, or handling a problem or conflict, there wasn’t the opportunity to send it via text, email, Instagram or Facebook - we had to engage in the conversation no matter how difficult.
Now, most folks know it’s still a pretty rude and a poor move to handle these things anyplace but in person, the opportunity has always been there to do it - but we don't because we have given ourselves a choice, an out. The problem isn’t usually the opportunity or the availability, but rather a lack of consideration for the face to face conversation as the best platform.
A decent example of this is online dating. Its rapid growth trend has allowed for people who don’t enjoy or trust traditional settings (church, social and recreational activities, bars, clubs, etc.) to meet, and also replaces that difficult feeling of going up to a stranger around strangers and talking to them. The dreaded face to face engagement of mutual and meaningful dialogue. Instead, you’re connected with a face on a screen with some words that pop up. You have no idea who they are (or if it’s even them), so you feel free to say whatever comes to mind. For some, this can be a great place to teach themselves how to be more comfortable starting a conversation. For others, it’s a fantasy free-for-all that has potentially led us away from one of our most precious gifts as human beings - the gift of attention and discernment.
Although, most online connections are pretty good, nothing replaces being able to see a person’s body language, facial expressions, and gestures that make a world of difference in building a trusting and honest relationship. Which in turn opens the door to having difficult conversations that can save the saved when they need to be saved.
Perhaps one of the biggest differences in why current culture struggles with difficult face-to-face dialogue is because we have had for a while the ability to edit a message. Even for the most simple or silly of conversations, the millennial generations have always had the time to think something over before responding. This not only removes a sense of vulnerability and honesty but the raw emotion and reality that often lead to it. In the moment response and responsibility in all of its flawed glory and humanity.
I get it, this ability has its advantages in that we get to come off in our best light - even our in our selfies and pics. If we take a moment to think about it that’s not always the most human or honest approach. As humans we’re supposed to have flaws (physical, emotional, situational) and make mistakes with what we sometimes say and how we look. These flaws and errors contribute to us being stronger mentally and maturing emotionally. As much as we hate regrets, we do have a certain sense of healthy-pride and purpose in them. They’re a catalyst for our growth both emotionally and spiritually, which is critically necessary to navigate the day to day realities of life without unraveling.
Metrics is something everyone in the digital world obsesses over. At no other point in history have we had access to such a broad audience right at our fingertips, which is a great thing for brands to build on. Yet, this platform sometimes makes us overlook the quality of relationships versus the quantity of how many we have. He or she is successful because they have 5k followers, 3k likes, 10k YT hits. In this short-term world that obviously means something - but in the long-term world of faith and forever it apparently means very little. Jesus only had 12 followers.
Our Most Difficult Conversation?
When did we stop talking about the expectations and realities of real life, genuine love and our need for saving grace and faith in a forever God? The answer is simple. When we decided that we were great and God was not - so much. When we decided that humility and reality were no longer necessary virtues for navigation and success in life. When we decided every 6-year old playing club soccer wearing Reynaldo cleats was great, when we decided everyone passes and no one fails is great, when we decided everyone wins and no loses is great, when we decided that it was great that not every generation had work for their way of life, but could actually live off the hard work and sacrifice of the generation before them. When we decided that church was not so great when the word of God challenged and instructs on how we live our lives.
God is GREAT - God is GOOD, and sometimes we are not so great and not so good. That is precisely why we need to have the difficult and unpleasant conversations that the Holy Spirit uses to convict our troubled hearts and challenge our conflicted thinking. This encourages and challenges us to be better - to do better - to live better - to love better and to save the saved.
This has been a difficult process for me as well. I have learned that one of the best pieces of advice I could give in this conversation is to throw out all your pre-set pre-determined terms and instead think of them as interactions and affirmations and not connections and engagements of meaningful and mutual dialogue. It is not void of value or merit, but instead of ‘engagement,’ you’re having a conversation. Instead of ‘retention,’ you’re catching someone’s attention by reminding them you care. And instead of ‘networking’ or ‘connections,’ you have conversations with friends. I know this sounds almost insulting, but sometimes it’s necessary to be reminded of the core roots to humanity and to the purposes of God into why these difficult conversations were made to have and necessary to our spiritual and emotional health and healing.