A Word from Bob: You’re reading Part 6 in my blog mini-series on Half Biblical Ministry to the Suffering. The series was prompted by a yet-to-be-published work in the biblical counseling field that highlighted truth-telling for the suffering, but de-emphasized relationship building with the suffering. Based upon my biblical study and my study of the history of how the church has engaged with suffering believers, it is my conviction that truth-telling and relationship-building must be combined for any counseling that desires to be comprehensively biblical. Here are titles/links to my first 5 posts:
- Half Biblical Ministry to the Suffering
- Counseling Without Loving Compassion
- Mingling Our Sufferings and Sorrows
- Job’s Miserable Counselors: How Not to Counsel
- Climbing in the Casket: Rich Soul Empathy
Mark 1: Intimate Family Relationship
Galatians 6:1-3, in the context of Paul’s discussion of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, models how to build a grace connection. The phrase “grace connection” suggests that in all ministry we are to model, share, give, and receive grace in a rich, close relationship modeled after how Christ relates to us.
First, grace connection requires intimate family relationship. Paul begins with the profound word, “Brothers” (6:1). In chapter 1 of Gospel Conversations: How to Care Like Christ, I demonstrate how Paul uses “brothers” over two dozen times in 1 and 2 Thessalonians to highlight family closeness, equality, and protection—a band of brothers who have each other’s backs.
Paul’s word reminds us of the wisdom of Solomon. “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17). “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).
Evaluation forms from people who have been counseled by lay encouragers express this sense of intimate friendship. “Even though we had never met before, our times were like two friends walking together.” “I could feel your concern; we were on the same level.” “You accepted me. You didn’t scold me, but were honest like a friend.”
Mark 2: Spiritual Maturity
Second, grace connection involves spiritual maturity leading to Spirit-like comforting. Paul continues, “…you who are spiritual…” (6:1). The Holy Spirit is the Comforter who comes alongside to help in time of need.
In the Spirit’s power, we are a friend acting in the best interest of our friend. We’re an encourager standing up for, standing behind, standing with, and standing back-to-back and alongside our spiritual friend. We comfort in the power of the comfort that we receive from the ultimate Comforter—the Holy Spirit.
Mark 3: Gentle Persistence
Third, grace connection requires gentle persistence—two words we don’t always equate. Paul counsels counselors to “restore gently” (6:1). Gentleness looks like a tamed stallion, strength under control, firm compassion, mature self-control, and power and love mingled through wisdom. Christ labels himself “gentle” in Matthew 11:29, saying that unlike the Pharisees who were sin-spotters and burden-givers, He was the Rest-Giver and Sin-Bearer.
Paul places “restore” in the present, continual tense. Biblical counselors maintain a patient persistence in mending, furnishing, equipping, and setting the dislocated member of the body back in place. Picture the physical therapist who brings her patient back to the place of health by pushing without being pushy. Picture the marathon runner. “I love you for the long haul. I’m in this relationship for a lifetime.” That’s grace connection.
Mark 4: Humility
Fourth, grace connection conveys humility. Paul further counsels the counselor: “But watch yourself or you also may be tempted” (6:1).
“Watch” is the Greek word skopon from which we gain our word “scope.” We put ourselves under the microscope before examining our spiritual friend. As a grace connector, we maintain a strong mental attention to our own potential temptability. We remain humble in spirit, knowing that we are also susceptible to Satan’s lies about God’s good heart.
Mark 5: Committed Burden Bearing
Fifth, Paul describes the spiritual friend as a committed burden-bearer. “Carry each other’s burden” (6:2). God calls us to pick up and help carry the weight that overwhelms our friend.
“Burden” or “weight” means anything pressing on people physically, emotionally, or spiritually that makes a demand on their resources. When our friend’s platelets are low, we become a spiritual blood transfusion of grace.
The Rest of the Story
In our next post on comprehensive and compassionate biblical counseling, we’ll take a look 4 Christlike Characteristics of a Biblical Comforter.
More of the Story
Today’s principles from God’s Word come from my book, Gospel Conversations: How to Care Like Christ.
Join the Conversation
Which of the 5 marks of compassionate biblical counseling do you believe is most important for you to further develop?
What occurs in a biblical counseling relationship if any of these 5 marks is minimized or missing?