Member Question – I have a friend that I believe needs to make some changes in his life. How should I let him know what I am thinking? He is not sinning, but I believe he is making some unwise choices. If he changes, I think it would be much better for him.
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Rick’s Response – This dilemma is interesting. Thank you for asking. When I think about a situation like this, five considerations come to mind. I will list them for you. And I did prioritize them in a biblically logical order.
The first thing that comes to mind is that there is a good chance that I am wrong or partially wrong. It is always wise to have a reasonable amount of self-suspicion regarding our opinions of others.
I only know part of the information to make an accurate assessment of a matter. And God knows everything, so whatever it is that I know, it’s incomplete intelligence. (See the infographic.)
There have been occasions when I had observed what I thought to be a certain kind of behavior in someone only to find out that I was wrong. There have been other times when my opinion was close to right, but I was still working with insufficient data.
When handled poorly, I call this the “Ready-Fire-Aim” approach to bringing correction to someone. Do not be surprised if you learn that you may not be entirely right about your analysis.
If your friend were committing adultery or stealing from the poor, you would probably be more objective, but you seem to be describing something else. We generally live in the murky, ambiguous, “eighteen-percent gray” world of subjective analysis.
I am not saying that you should refrain from saying anything. It is typically better to say something and be wrong than to say nothing at all. If you have a real friendship, your assessment, whether right or wrong, should only deepen the relationship.
Be a Sovereigntist
Remember that the work the Father began in your brother is not complete. The Lord will perfect it on some future day, not today. Though he may be currently making a mistake, God will wonderfully finish what He has begun with him.
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. – Philippians 1:6
Do you believe this? Are you a sovereigntist when it comes to thinking about your brothers and sisters in Christ? Do you know that God is not only working in your friend today, but He will finish what He started? These are essential perspective altering questions.
While you are correcting your brother, be sure he knows you have faith that God will change him. Have you ever been reproved by someone and you felt that he was not confident you could transform?
When someone corrects me, I want to “feel their faith” in God for me. I want to know they believe God is not through with me yet. I want them to correct me “in faith,” not out of exasperation.
Sometimes we correct people and leave them more hopeless than helped. Be sure to build-up your brother as you are correcting him. If you believe that Philippians 1:6 is what the Lord is doing, he will feel your faith in God for him.
Never forget that you are the foremost sinner in this relationship. If you get the “log and the speck” in the wrong eyes, it will not go well for either of you (Matthew 7:3-5).
He is possibly doing something that may be a mistake. You, on the other hand, were the cause of your Savior’s death. Which is worse? Do not forget the cross when correcting someone (1 Timothy 1:15).
If you keep the gospel in mind, you will correct him in humility. When one fellow sinner is correcting another fellow sinner, it should go well (Matthew 18:33).
If there is a “greater than attitude” with either one of you, it will not go well. While you cannot control the response of your friend, you can govern your heart with the gospel.
Mortification Takes Time
Your friend is not you. That is important data. How long have you been walking with God? How long has your friend been walking with God? What blessings and gifts have you received as a Christian that your friend has not discovered yet–or that he may never receive?
There may be maturity, personality, or soul-capacity differences between you and him. Be sure to guard your heart against trying to get him to become today what it has taken you years to learn and apply. Sometimes we can talk to people this way:
What I have learned in twenty-five years of walking with God, I expect you to know and apply to your life today.
It is easier to talk about what we are doing well while expecting others to do the same. Be sure your friend is aware of your weaknesses, not just the things you have conquered, which are the things that you want him to do.
It is the kindness of God that leads to repentance (Romans 2:4). The Lord changes us primarily through kindness. The most excellent demonstration of this concept is the execution of His Son on a cruel tree.
This act of His kindness is what led to our salvation. Be sure to be kind to your friend. Motivate him by grace, not by condemnation.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:32
Let him feel your affection and encouragement in a similar way that you have experienced the Father’s love and support. Let him know you are for him as God is for you (Romans 8:31).
If you can keep these things in mind, by all means, share with your friend your observations. It would probably be wrong for you to refrain from telling him what you are thinking (Proverbs 27:6). The key is how you present it (Romans 12:18).
Also published on Medium.