Every now and then I will get a phone call from a person looking for a therapist and they will ask something like: “Are you a Christian therapist?” This question should not be difficult to answer, should it? I mean, I am a Christian and I am a therapist so answering in the affirmative should be a done deal. However, I find that I am very hesitant to answer this question directly.
When a person asks this question I am not sure exactly what they mean. Do they mean to ask: “Do you pray with your clients?” “Do you quote scripture to them?” “Do you pray for your clients?” “Do you attend to spiritual questions and issues raised by your clients?” “Do you minister the fruit of the Spirit, namely love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control?”
In order: Only if they ask. Rarely… and only if I know that they are Christians. Yes, without ceasing. Yes, absolutely. I pray that I do minister The Spirit’s fruit every encounter with anyone.
If a young woman comes in for therapy and I start telling her that her heavenly Father loves her before I discover that her earthly father severely abused her there is a chance I have just created more work for us to do…if she ever comes back.
In John 18:10 we read that Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest in an attempt to DEFEND Jesus. Jesus REBUKED Peter and healed the ear.
In Hebrews 4:12 we are told that the Word of God is our sword.
I don’t know about you, but I do not want to go around swinging my sword irresponsibly in the name of defending Jesus only for Jesus to have to go behind me and heal ears.
I certainly believe that my “sword”, God’s word, is powerful. If I use my “sword” irresponsibly, I might end up cutting off some ears. How will they hear with ears that are severed?
When I dwell on this issue of using my sword to cut off ears, I am reminded of this scripture in 2 Corinthians 3:2: “Tread carefully, reverently. Follow the Holy Spirit. He is at work. We are living epistles.”
Living epistles. He is at work.
Here’s the thing: I think we do this in every day life, too. I fear that we go around swinging our swords, defending Jesus, whacking off ears, muttering things about “boldly” proclaiming the gospel and about how the truth offends people and there is nothing we can do about that and we feel quite self-righteous…and we forget. We forget that we are living epistles. We forget about the fruit that they are to bite into so that they can “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).
We forget about the powerful dwelling of the Holy Spirit that produces fruit like peace…patience…gentleness…self-control. We forget all about this fruit because quite honestly it is much easier to quote a verse and not attend to the matters of our own heart. It is easier to spout off words or ideas from the bible carelessly without focusing on our own spiritual disciplines.
And, consequently the world grows cold, bitter, and angry…with malnourished souls and with severed ears. Souls that are not tasting the fruit. Ears that will need Jesus to go back and heal. And, how does He plan on doing that? What seems to be God’s plan for nourishing those souls and healing those ears? We, the church, are His Body. We are His agents. We are His hands, hands that can reach out and touch, hands that can reach out and nourish and heal…with peace…patience…gentleness…self-control.
In John Jesus tells us that “this is how they will know that we are His disciples: if we love one another.”
I sometimes am afraid that we are really screwing this up. I am afraid that we are so focused on doctrinal disagreements or, worse, political, philosophical differences and we throw around that sword…ideas and words from the bible and offer no fruit for anyone to try…to taste and see. We forget that Jesus told us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. We are so intent on being RIGHT…rather than being in RELATIONSHIP…which Jesus obviously valued over and over and over again.
We’re busy and we’re anxious and in those states it is a whole lot easier to focus “out there” rather than “in here”. It is a whole lot easier to spout off words rather than focusing on our own hearts, our own fruit, our own “aroma” we are spreading of Christ among others (2 Corinththians 2:15). So we give people fruit and fragrance alright…and it is sour and it stinks…and it gives our Lord a vile, hated reputation. Oh, the shame of it.
So, I am going to challenge myself… and you, too, while I am at it…for a few days or maybe weeks, I am going to try focusing on being fruitful. I am reminding myself to draw close to the vine and to give someone something to taste…and see…and smell…that is GOOD. When someone attacks a principle that is contrary to my understanding of Jesus, I am going to be patient…kind…peaceful.
Yes, I know, I know. Sometimes the good fruit and aroma of Christ offends people. Yes, we cannot avoid that. But, sometimes I think we use this truth as a justification for being hateful, belligerent Christians.
Acknowledge that Jesus can defend Himself. Remember that He said HE came to bring a sword…not necessarily one for you to carry or to use whacking off ears (Matthew 10:34). Put your sword away…in your own heart. Let it rightly divide YOU. Remember that Jesus is the Judge, not us, (2 Timothy 4:1) and it is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict…not ours (John 16:8).
It all comes back to Jesus…and He told us what to do:
I posted this blog to my facebook page. I’m so very proud to know you and call you friend. Thank you for your very insightful messages to all of us.
Pamela Kay Overbey
I found this through Pamela Kay Overbey’s facebook post. I go to Westmore and see you and Jonathan occassionally. I so enjoy reading the MessageMinder and think that Jonathan is a talented writer. Now I know that you are as well. I look forward to reading more of your insightful writings.
Dear Emily, this was an inspirational read. “Acknowledge that Jesus can defend Himself.” You might be amazed to realise just how few theological students, ministerial students and ‘Jesus enthusiasts’ fail to see this simple truth. It is the place of God, the Master of the Universe, to defend us, his flock – and not the other way around. How different the God debate would be if more anti-religious heads encountered such reasoned approaches to our ancient faith.