Friday, April 5, 2013

ugly generalizations

Surely such are the dwellings of the unrighteous, such is the place of him who knows not God.
Job 18:21

Bildad's general theology of sin is relatively sound, but to use it to explain Job's pain is just ludicrous. It is the worst application of theology possible. And that is how we are shown by him the dangers of generalization. Job was a particular person suffering from unique, personal losses. To attempt to "console" him by preaching God's judgment upon sinners is ignorant and uncaring.

By profession I am a pastor and in my shepherding, I counsel people. Really, every pastor should do so! When I counsel people, they give me the privilege of entering into personal, private, often intimate pains. The worst thing I can do at that moment is preach a sermon to them. That only serves to compound guilt. They may need to know the scriptures, but I must enter into their lives and incarnate the truth with love. Yes, I may even have to admonish them at times, but only when I have also identified with them and earned the relationship to do so. That is what sets biblical counsel and care in the Body of Christ apart from secular therapy. Therapists are taught professional distance as a matter of requirement. Ministers enter into relationship, often deeply, in order to show the love of Christ and the peace of God to people.

Most Christians can learn to do this as well. The church is commanded in Galatians 6:1-2 to "bear one another's burdens". That means generalizing in the pains of others is NOT an acceptable practice. No more flippant quoting of Romans 8:28... PLEASE! No more walking away with the promise, "I'm praying for you". Most of the time when we say "I'm praying for you" we mean "I don't want to talk about this with you." Cliches abound in the church when people hurt. Let's stop being Bildad!

The thing sufferers need first is our care. We need to express our love and enter with them into their pain. We don't stop there, but we must start there. If we stop there, no real change can happen or perspective can be gained. If we don't start there, we are just theologizing. To speak the truth in love means we share in their sufferings. That's the love part.

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