Whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them. (Jesus in Matthew 7:12)
Dr. James C. Fisher, a noted psychiatrist from a generation ago and an authority on the problems of people’s attitudes and helping the emotionally disturbed, wrote a book entitled A Few Buttons Missing. Today the title might be Not Dealing with a Full Deck. For fifty years, he had dreamed of writing a practical, easy-to-understand handbook telling people how to live. “Quite by accident,” he said, “I discovered that such a work had already been completed.” Listen to his words:
"If you were ever to take a sum total of all authoritative articles ever written. . .by the most qualified psychologists and psychiatrists on the subject of mental health. . .combine them and refine them and cleave out all the excess verbiage. . .If you were to take the “whole of the meat” and one of the “fat,” and if you would have these unadulterated bits of pure social and scientific knowledge concisely expressed by the most capable of poets. . You would have an awkward and incomplete summation of The Sermon on the Mount. . .and, it would suffer immeasurably through comparison to that message!"
To compare the attitudes of the beatitudes to the thinking and mindset of the natural man reveals a wide contrast. For example, meekness would not be viewed as the avenue to world control. In fact, just the opposite would be the recommended route to power. History provides ample examples which indicate that it is too often the aggressive who dominate the earth. Meekness is too often equated with naivete, i.e.to be deficient in worldly wisdom or judgment; unsophisticated; not equipped to appraise or comprehend the nature of serious problems. However, the actual nature of meekness is not to be misjudged that way.
Meekness is rather the strength Jesus had as he prepared to face his adversaries and accusers. He was confident. He knew his purpose. He was firm in His commitment. His self-control before King Herod and Governor Pilate astounded them both, while in the moments before His agonizing death, a fellow victim turned, looked, and called out to Him for help and eternal hope. There is an inner strength that is a part of meekness which enables one to persevere until the very end. Meekness is the “stuff” of biblical character greatness.
Every once in a while a series of events can occur in your life which will remind you of the words of one unknown sage who, in a desperate moment, became aware of the situation at hand and concluded, “If it weren’t so sad, it would be hilarious!” Thereupon, your next thought might almost cause you to veto the call to ministry and seek a more simplified life.
At such a juncture in my own life, I thought how great a life my mail carrier had—just walking around town, putting mail in boxes, ringing doorbells, and chatting with whomever he wished. Providentially, God led me to spend one entire day reading and meditating on the first forty Psalms and thus be revived, refreshed, and encouraged to joyfully and confidently press on.
This bit of self-pity came back to me one evening as I was coming home after a committee meeting at church. I had just parked the car in our driveway and started towards the front door, anticipating a relaxed time with my wife and getting caught up on the kids’ day. But before I got to the door, my wife met me and quickly gave me her summary of the situation at hand:
· Out front in that parked car is a teenager who is upset with her parents and is threatening to run away again; · In the bedroom is the college girl from our neighborhood whose father just introduced her to her new step-mother. Her father’s new wife, who had been married five times previously, was moving into their home with her grown sons and daughter, who was about the same age as our neighbor. This meant she would now have to be sharing the small room she had exclusively occupied for years as an only child. · Jack, a new “hippie” convert, has another question about his former lifestyle and how it pertains to the issue of fornication; · Linda, the young lady in the living room, wife of an Army Chaplain serving in Vietnam, is greatly distressed that his life is in extreme danger at this very moment. She is with my wife and needs some spiritual encouragement and human companionship during this uncomfortable evening. (Linda is the one mentioned earlier, the daughter of the church secretary named Jenny, with whom I reconciled in the story Speak to the Heart.)
After spending time working out satisfactory temporary solutions to the first two problems, then suggesting to Jack that he spend that night meditating on the fifth chapter of Proverbs and meet me tomorrow, I joined my wife as we listened to Linda’s intense concern for her husband’s situation. We respected her unusual fear for his life. It was not an ordinary feeling about his welfare; it almost seemed like a vision she had about something harmful and life threatening that she could not shake, even though she sincerely tried.
We listened for some time, and finally we could do nothing else but bow for a period of intercessory prayer for her husband. After a few minutes she seemed to regain her composure and felt comfortable going home. We were not surprised to hear from him a few days later and were enthralled as he described the sudden change in his captors who had suddenly and explicably decided to spare his life at the time we were in prayer together. Today he is a professor in a theological seminary.
It was not long after that evening of ministry with those four people above that my wife and I were invited to the home of another couple. The husband was the psychologist who spent Sundays at home reading transcripts of my predecessor’s sermons. I wondered why we had been invited. It soon came out that he had heard of my wife’s reputation as an elementary teacher and wanted to offer her a position at the school where he was a counselor.
In a side conversation, he commented about a former pastor, one who currently attended our church, but had been pastor at another church. It was common knowledge that this man had been asked to resign from two of his most recent pastorates because of infidelities.
He had since set up his own counseling service while completing his graduate degree. Our host wondered why we had not used him in teaching at the church. His glowing recommendation of the man flew in the face of his faithful wife’s conversation with my wife and me during that same week about her husband’s very questionable behavior with one of his clients. She had firmly stated that if her husband refused to cease his “counseling” with that young lady, this third affair would finally result in a divorce.
Sitting there in our host’s living room, listening to his accolades regarding an ecclesiastical miscreant and knowing of the current threat to that person’s very tenuous marriage, I found myself in one of those times when you have to admit to yourself that confidentiality is a two-edge sword. Not only does it rightly protect those who might otherwise be victimized by gossiping ne'er-do-wells, but also conversely prohibits clearing up confusing perspectives by people who have sincere but imperfect understanding of the facts regarding a particular person’s problem, and continue to talk about it.
The Code of Ethics in counseling guarantees that the client’s information given to the professional counselor is “privileged communication,” not to be shared with any others, in order to protect client confidentiality. To enlighten my host might have cleared up his mistaken evaluation of his friend, but such was not an option available to me. I had no choice other than to fall back to the old cliché of “grin and bear it.” That was both proper and the honorable thing to do, but I did so without the proverbial grin!
There is a temptation for any counselor to feel a bit “messianic” at times when helping a client through a crisis. Avoid this inclination at all costs! All too often, I’ve seen that when a pastor spends more than twenty or twenty-five percent of his time and effort in counseling, his ministry preaching, and personal life will soon pay a toll. This is especially essential in a one-pastor church with no auxiliary staff. There is a choice that must be made, and the expression, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,” is also intended to keep one’s focus on the priorities of your calling. Avoid getting sidetracked!
“We all make mistakes in all kinds of ways, but when we teachers, who should know better, do wrong, our punishment will be greater than it would be for others. If anyone can control his tongue, it proves he has perfect control over himself in every other way” (James 3:2 TLNT).