Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Walking with rather than talking at

I often want to be able to solve a problem quickly.  That's fine when it comes to DIY or even a simple admin job, but it is awful, destructive, and sinful when applied to people.  Part of the problem I think is absorbed from our culture of the quick fix, the instant remedy.  Part of it comes from wanting to remove pain and discomfort from the lives of those I care about.  Another part of it comes from wanting to be thought well of, wanting to be 'successful' in pastoring people, maybe even having something to dow with measurable goals or feeling like a job is finished.  And yet the Bible does not give us a steady stream of pat answers to life's problems and pains.  The Bible is not ordered or indexed or searchable in a way that enables us to look up 'd' for depression, 'a' for anxiety, or 's' for solution and we ought to be grateful for that.  Rather what we see is people walking with others through the story of their lives.

Quick answers, half thought through theology, hastily spoken misapplied doctrine is dangerous.  Just think of Job's friends.  They begin well, they sit and observe Job in silence but the problem comes when they speak and provide answers that are half thought through, received tradition misapplied to Job and his situation.  It would have been better if they had kept silent.  Or think of Nehemiah, he hears of a problem, he cares deeply about a problem, he is moved to help and literally moved to care for God's people, but he takes time to pray it through.  Even when he goes to Jerusalem he takes time to survey the walls and the people and live alongside them as he leads them to build first the walls and then a community with God at the centre within the walls.

There is a lot for us to learn from the Bible's walking with rather than talking at approach.  Think of the difference walking with gospel hope alongside a friend struggling with depression and anxiety would make rather than taking at them with quick answers about a situation we have not experienced or whose complexities and pain we don to fully understand.  Think of the difference walking with would make in any given situation of suffering you or those in your church family are facing; childlessness, infertility, loss, grief, unemployment, infirmity, disability and so on.  That is what Jesus did when he became man, he walked with us through suffering, he wept alongside Martha and Mary, he loved and lost and yet brought hope, it's no accident that we find him in the next chapter in their home again.  He walked with them and talked of hope and salvation as he walked.

Offering quick advice is easier but it is not more productive.  Walking with is longer term, it is harder work, it takes more commitment, and is more painful but it is what we are called to because it is what Jesus has done for us.

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