Hard conversations

Part of my life as a pastor involves engaging in hard conversations. Recent weeks have been filled to an unusual degree with meetings of this kind. Sometimes they’re to do with intractable problems that people can’t quite find a way out of, and in that case some outside perspective, including hard truths held up like a mirror, can be really important. Sometimes they’re to do with confronting a blind spot in someone’s life. Sometimes they’re about coming alongside someone who is struggling.

I count it a privilege to be doing this work, though it is emotionally exhausting. But I do also think that the church community in general would be much healthier if every Christian took this responsibility seriously. To be clear, I’m not talking about a super-intense and heavy way of doing relationships. But I am talking about loving each other enough to run at the issues rather than evade them. I think this is part of the New Testament vision for church as a family, captured by all the ‘one another’ commands littered throughout the Bible (for example, ‘Carry each other’s burdens’ and ‘Admonish one another’ and ‘Teach one another’, etc.)

What would stop you? One big issue is superficiality in friendship. A sheer lack of intentionality and time would prevent your life from being open to others, and vice versa. But even when relationships are deep, we sometimes hold back from telling each other the truth. I think the main reason is out of fear; fear of a bad reaction, of rejection, of driving someone away. 

But Jesus modelled to us a beautiful love for people that always told them the truth. The church needs to be more like that. When someone is wandering away from God or from community, it is your role to pull them back. If someone is struggling in some sin they can’t get out of, it’s your role to step towards that, or bring others into the situation. If someone has a bad attitude or is blind to their pride, or greed, or whatever, it is your role to lovingly point it out.

There is a bad way to do this. It’s laced with fear and pride and judgement. It doesn’t do them any good, and it doesn’t do you any good. 

But there is also a good way to do this. It’s rooted in a conviction that Jesus is real, that he wants holy people, that the church is a family, and that each of us is called to love one another as brothers and sisters. It’s soaked in prayer, and humility, and gratitude for the grace of God.

Do you need to have that hard conversation today? My advice: pray, then do it.