|Posted by Terry Aaron, PhD on June 25, 2011 at 10:40 AM|
Posted on 6/24/2011 by Dr. Terry Aaron -
Is biblical counseling exclusively about passing along theological information from one person to another?
As practitioners of God’s Word are we to only occupy ourselves with doctrinal understanding or scriptural application as it regards the sin and sufferings of others? While theology and doctrinal acuity are essential components of biblical counseling, wisdom guides us to understand that, “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18, ESV).
In the end, we serve others well to remember that “knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up” (2 Corinthians 8:1). Knowledge that excludes love for God and others may have the power to puncture souls, but it is impotent in its capacity to change hearts! Rather than heal, it only destroys. It is important for us to consider how Scripture directs us away from such patterns as we grow in knowledge to the glory of God?
Remember Our Ambassadorship
One of our primary identities as biblical counselors is that of ambassadors. We see this illustrated by the apostle Paul when he writes, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:18-20, ESV). Paul understood the call of God upon his life as a messenger of the Gospel (Ephesians 6:19-20); as a representative of Another. He also understood the grandeur of the message he was given. This awareness must perpetually shape the mind of anyone participating in the counsel of God’s holy Word. If we are to avoid the pitfalls of arrogance and pride, we must never forget we are mere ambassadors of another Kingdom, representing Someone else, and responsible for a profoundly important message centered in calling believers and non-believers alike back to God.
Refuse To Be An Obstacle
His awareness of being an ambassador of the Lord, Jesus Christ, invoked a passion in Paul’s ministerial conduct that prompted him towards integrity, perseverance, endurance, purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, love, truthfulness, and honesty all for the sake of the Gospel (2 Corinthians 6:1-11). He knew the score. He was formerly a blasphemer and murderer who now had the privilege of representing the King of Kings. Paul never failed to remember the valuable honor that had been divinely placed upon his life. He had been chosen by God to be a mouthpiece of eternity, and therefore took seriously every detail of his interactions with others. There was no relational carelessness in him. He was careful not to mistreat others though he possessed incomparable theological knowledge that could have easily fostered such behavior. As such, he was able to claim, “We put no obstacles in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way…” (2 Corinthians 6:3-4a). Are we as sensitive as Paul in our relationships (be they counseling or otherwise)? Consider the questions below:
When you meet with others, do you seek to exude the love of Jesus? Do people see the joy of the Lord in your demeanor? Do you exhibit hope even when things are not going well? Do you illustrate faith in Scripture over and above circumstances? Do you speak truth in love? Are those you serve convinced that you are passionate to serve them? Are you more concerned with your ability to help than you are your commitment to love? When people resist your counsel, do you make it about you? When change comes slowly, are you patient and kind or judgmental and condemning? Do you minimize the uniqueness of people as though they were cloned personalities, or do you take time to get to know and understand them individually (i.e., their maturity in the faith, fears, resentments, etc.)? Are you willing to inconvenience yourself for the sake of another? Do you stay on time with your meetings or sessions? Are you prompt in returning emails and phone calls? Do you keep your commitments? Do you seek to conduct your life by the same counsel you offer others? Do you take seriously the concerns or criticisms of those you counsel? Do you truly listen? Are you honest about your own struggles?
Removing All Restrictions
Paul was zealous for the Corinthians. They were an infirmed church that desperately needed his leadership and counsel. Since he took his role as an ambassador of the Gospel seriously, he was motivated to operate with them in a way that omitted any obstacle attempting to impede his message. The end result as he began to instruct them in counsel was, “You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections” (2 Corinthians 6:12, ESV). Paul’s diligence in meticulously glorifying God in his behavior, attitude, and commitment to the Gospel set the stage for effective counsel. The people of Corinth could not blame him for misconduct, laziness, inconsiderateness, lack of consistency, or selfishness. His precision in ministerial excellence afforded him the position to point the Corinthians to their own hearts as being the primary hurdle in receiving his message. Since he took great care to thoroughly honor the Lord in his relationship with them, he could highlight, with confidence, that their problem was the restrictions imposed by their own affections, and nothing else. Unbeknownst to them, his conduct provided a context of protection from their own tendencies of rationalization and excuse making. He removed all obstacles over which he had direct control so as to clear a path of understanding for the message he was commissioned to give.
Counseling goes far beyond providing knowledge in a relational vacuum. Paul offers a vivid explanation of this in his ministry to the Corinthian church as it seems he left no stone unturned in order to maximize the effectiveness of his preaching, teaching, and counsel. He is an exemplary model of what it means to do ministry well, and we would all be wise to emulate him in how we are developing as counselors and ministers of the Word!