I liked the opening story of the seminary student seeing problem people as “projects” to be sorted to enable the real work of ministry to continue unobstructed. In my least loving and less sacrificial moments this is how I catch myself viewing difficult people, as projects or problems to be solved. Tripp’s reminder that difficult people are to be loved as people before they are known and spoken to and told to do something about sin is very helpful.
Tripp’s second reminder that our loving difficult people is impossible without first knowing the love of Christ is also helpful in identifying the source of love. He jumps rather quickly from Romans 8:31-39 [p117-8] to sacrificial love and could make it more explicit in the chapter that this love is not automatic. God does not work without our co-operation, so we are to cultivate our love for Christ and a deep heart-knowledge that “nothing will separate us from the love of Christ” (Romans 8:39) by the use of means, such as meditation and prayer.
The illustration of the church being like a doctor’s surgery works against Tripp’s vision of a family of God’s people in need of change helping one another to change. Doctors are normally healthy people who treat sick people. We need to make sure that we are all aware that when Tripp says 100% of people struggle against sin, struggle to love, be patient and avoid temptation that this includes the pastor/vicar. I sometimes think that more senior church leaders than me are somehow super-beings, less prone to sin and struggles, but of course this is not true. The devil is doubtlessly more persistent with church leaders and so we should not be surprised when they struggle against the world, the flesh and the devil.
Here’s some choice quotes:
The church is not a theological classroom. It is a conversion, confession, repentance, reconciliation, forgiveness and sanctification centre, where flawed people place their trust in Christ, gather to know him better, learn to love others as he has designed. The church is messy and inefficient but it is God’s wonderful mess – the place where he radically transforms and heals lives. [p116]
What does a redemptive relationship look like?
Love promotes relationships where God’s goals are central:
- Enter the person’s world – not the problem but the person in the middle of it – radical personal transformation is God’s goal.
Not a situation or circumstance but how the heart is beating and functioning in the situation. “What is this person struggling with?” rather than “What is the problem?”
Listen to the person and their heart,not just the situation. “I am angry, I am hurt etc” What’s the heart saying?
Listen for interpretive words – “I don’t deserve this!”
Listen for self talk- “I am a failure” “I’m just like this, it always happens to me.”
Listen for God talk – “I thought God cared for me.” “Am I being punished by God?”
- Incarnate the love of Christ – As Christ’s ambassadors, it is not just what we say that God uses to encourage change in people; it’s also who we are and what we do…As ambassadors, we are not only called to speak the truth but to be real, living, flesh-and-blood illustrations of it. We are not just God’s spokespersons; we are examples. We are not only God’s mouthpieces; we are his evidence. [p134]
- Identify with suffering
- Accept with agenda.
What will I apply to ministry?
I find it hard to get the balance between modelling Christian living and being realistically humble. I’m either too much “look at me, I’m sorted” or “woe is me, I’m so sinful.” Christian testimony must be “Christ has made a difference in my life in this way and he’s still making a difference in lots of other ways.” Or, when I am dishing out counselling advice, acknowledging the sinful ways I am prone to think or act in the same situation.