In Part 1 (posted to the BCC blog March 1, 2017), I appealed for the demonstration of compassion by Christians within a divisive, polarized, and politicized society. However, we must be careful to not allow compassion to lead us to compromise the truth.
In many ways the secular society seems to be pursuing understanding and compassion more vigorously than the Evangelical Church. Society has effectively characterized Christians as imperialists, racists, sexists, homophobic, compassionless, and hateful people! As biblical counselors we can sometimes find ourselves feeling shame or confusion for being identified with biblical truth.
We might confront a counselee with biblical truth regarding sinful behavior only to have the counselee dismiss truth by calling us racist, homophobic, etc. Such a response may cause us to pause and reflect. Is the counselee right? Is my heart hardened and lacking compassion? Be careful!
Compassion built on secular tolerance leads to the compromise of biblical truth and morality. Our growing sensitivity to failures of the past must not blind us to gospel-centered absolute truth and morality.
We must develop compassionate hearts, discerning eyes, enlightened prayers, wise actions, and words of truth that leads to the biblical transformation of counselees.
Compassionate Heart May Lead to Compromise?
While our hearts should be softened, we must never allow ourselves to become blind to absolute truth and biblical morality. A compassionate heart must be enlightened by a discerning mind for the sake of the counselee and the glory of God.
Compassionate Eyes Discern Truth from Error
In a culture of relativism, biblical counselors must seek enlightenment. We must discern between sin and culture differences. We can affirm and celebrate cultural differences, but not sin. Biblical wisdom requires work but yields incredible dividends for those we counsel (Proverbs 1:20-33; 2:1-22; 3:13-18)!
It is critical within our multicultural society to increase our understanding of cultural differences and divine absolutes that govern all humans.
We can start with trying to identify what biblically characterizes non-absolutes. Several Scriptures I look to for a framework to distinguish absolutes from non-absolutes are Romans 14-15:13, 1 Corinthians 8-10, Galatians 1:6-10, 1 Corinthians 6:8-20, and Colossians 2:8-10.
The Scriptures affirm that there are areas for which we are not to judge our fellow saints. Each of us will stand before God. In many of these areas we will have cultural differences and preferences. Yet there are other differences in belief and lifestyle that we dare not affirm. We did not write the Word of God but we are called to faithfully communicate it.
We must not allow secular tolerance to confuse areas of liberty with a justification for sin! We need to pray that our love and compassion be enlightened with biblical knowledge and wisdom.
Compassionate Praying for Discernment
Colossians 1:9-10 and Philippians 1:9-11 provide guidance for our prayers! It would be helpful for us to regularly pray these Scriptures for ourselves and our counselees. God’s answer to these prayers will help us to temper a compassionate heart with words of truth.
Compassionate and Truthful Words
Critical to the growth of our counselees is our commitment to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). We must never dilute the truth that can set a counselee free (John 8:32)!
A culture of relativism is described in the third and fourth chapters of 2 Timothy. Paul counsels Timothy to live a counter-cultural life and proclaim the all-sufficient Scriptures in response to the secular culture.
Traits of a culture of relativism (2 Timothy 3:5c-9):
- Living by lusts; if it feels good do it- 2 Tim. 3:6
- Learning without truth; truth is relative- 2 Tim. 3:7
- Resisting the truth; intolerant of truth- 2 Tim. 3:8
- Depart from those whose corrupt character is revealed- 2 Tim. 3:8c-9
Alternatives to the culture of relativism (2 Timothy 3:10-17):
- Counter-cultural character: examples- 2 Tim. 3:10
- Counter-cultural commitment: persecution- 2 Tim. 3:11-14
- Counter-cultural compass: objective truth- 2 Tim. 3:15-17
Declare the Word to correct a culture of relativism (2 Tim. 4:1-6):
- Preach the Word- 2 Tim. 4:2
- Preach the Word in season- 2 Tim. 4:2
- Preach the Word out of season- 2 Tim. 4:2
- Preach the Word for obedience- 2 Tim. 4:2
- Preach the Word when some disobey- 2 Tim. 4:3-4
- Preach the Word perseveringly- 2 Tim. 4:5
We must encourage one another to develop our compassion while applying the transforming absolute truths of Scripture to counselees. They need freedom! We must move beyond knowing biblical truth to gaining the confidence to take biblical actions.
Act Compassionately Without Compromise
Compassionate counseling in a multicultural society can be challenging. When words of truth are perceived as lacking compassion, confidence in truth can be shaken. Confusion between what is cultural and what is absolute truth may lead to withholding the truth that our counselees need. Therefore, we must encourage one another to take action by compassionately, wisely, and confidently communicating divine truth that is profitable for all who obey it.
A few actions might be helpful in shaping biblical compassion without compromise:
- Become more enlightened.
- Study past failures of the Evangelical Church in the areas of cultural and multiethnic issues.
My desire to acknowledge past failures without compromising truth motivated me to create a class with a white professor called Culture, Race, and the Church. Crossroads Bible College offers this course both on-campus and online. Additionally, I speak on (g)race rather than race relations. The grace of God leads me to humility and compassion with an uncompromising commitment to the transformational truths of grace. How might you educate yourself?
We realize that the transformational power of grace is resident in God alone. Therefore, we should establish a regular prayer time asking God for a compassionate heart, discerning mind, and confidence in the power of the cross and His Word.
While we seek understanding and sensitivity for multiple cultures we must remember the basic universal truths. Remember all humans being have common ancestors: Adam and Eve. We all have a universal problem: sin. There is one universal solution to our problem: Jesus Christ. The cross crosses all cultures.
Engagement with a diverse group of people is helpful in gaining practical understanding of counseling in a multiethnic society. Gather a diverse team of biblically grounded and mature Christians. If you do not have personal relationships, you might need to gather writings to help develop a list of cultural issues where you need to develop compassion. Also, make a list of absolute truths that you must not compromise.
Working together can clarify issues and be mutually edifying. Serving among a diverse staff and student body at Crossroads Bible College provides an environment where I can engage others, grow in my understanding, and be encouraged not to compromise the truth.
Having a diverse team periodically review our counseling content and style before and after we counsel may provide accountability for us. These fellow counselors can assist in critiquing our cultural sensitivity and compassion, as well as our commitment to truth.
We can all profit from a mentor or friend who provides compassionate but uncompromising truth to us when we are struggling to either understand or do what is right! I remind myself that we are all on a journey; no one has arrived.
Our counselees need our compassion and the biblical truths which God has entrusted to us. A multicultural society needs counselors with compassionate hearts and enlightened eyes who are prayer warriors and uncompromising communicators of biblical truth.
Only when secular tolerance is replaced with scriptural truths can we expect to see gospel-centered biblical transformation! Let’s encourage one another to show compassion to everyone without compromising the truth of Christ for anyone!
Questions for Reflection
Can you think of an experience where you were tempted to compromise truth in an effort to be compassionate? What have you found to be helpful in assisting you to distinguish cultural issues from universal absolute truths? What can we do as biblical counselors to encourage each other to grow in compassion without compromising truth?