A boy bathing in a river was in danger of being drowned. He called out to a passing traveler for help, but instead of holding out a helping hand, the man stood by unconcernedly, and scolded the boy for his imprudence. "Oh, sir!" cried the youth, "pray help me now and scold me afterwards." Counsel without help is useless. From Aesop’s Fables.
Paul Tripp refers to this as “lobbing grenades of truth”. I wonder how often and in how many areas we, as the church, do this to struggling believers and unbelievers. Are there homosexuals dying of AIDS and without Christ that we refuse to reach out to? Are there poor people that spend their money unwisely that we ignore? Are there teenagers that we refuse to counsel because of their unwise choices?
I fear that we often look more like the passing traveler than Jesus. We are pretty good about exercising church discipline. But sadly the church discipline that we often exercise is on unbelievers. We let many that claim to be believers go untouched (so long as they are within our friendly confines, tithe, or at least on our membership rolls) with discipline and we “discipline” those are not even within the church.
You see Aesop really does well at pointing out the ministry of Jesus here. Jesus most frequently helped and then counseled. The only time you really see the opposite is with the religious elite that “don’t need help”. If we only lob truth at people and scold them in their sin then our counsel is useless. If we only help people but never counsel them then our help is shallow at best.
Perhaps, rather than boycotting Pepsi and picketing gay parades we should try to build a relationship. Perhaps, rather than saying to a poor person we will only give 25% to your electric bill we should give until it hurts us, come alongside the person making poor decisions, and counsel them in biblical finances.
But of course lobbing grenades is far easier. It is more destructive but at least it takes less out of us than hand-to-hand combat. I could probably lob 15 grenades to every instance of hand-to-hand combat, but it remains impersonal. So, which type of ministry do you want with people? Easy yet destructive or tough yet personal?