Monday, April 15, 2013

warn with care

Read I Samuel 12 and II Corinthians 13

“Far be it from me that I should sin against God by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way.” I Samuel 12:23

Samuel warned the Israelites against insisting upon a king. He told them of all the bad consequences of such a decision. But the Israelites would not be dissuaded.

To warn someone is to stick one’s neck out. Even your closest friends will feel you are violating their personal space. I heard on public radio recently that the verse in the Bible that is most known is Matthew 7:1 “Judge not, that you be not judged.” If you warn someone, you are judging them.

My wife and I try to be sparing with our warnings. We do understand, as the Lord Jesus explained, we may have things in our own lives that are in great need of change.  We also understand that we only see part of the picture and that the person we feel a need to warn may have reasons unknown to us for what they do. But we also know there are times when a warning is necessary if one is to be compassionate.

When I was a teenager, I worked at Kansas Bible Camp. Richard Burson was the camp director. His son was my best friend there. I liked Richard a lot and I knew he respected me as a good worker. But every so often he would say to me, “Larry baby, are you saved?” This was so annoying.  Did he think he knew my heart? Richard was warning me.  I needed to get saved.

I had a history teacher in college. He thought I was hilarious. His classes were mostly student discussion and I could tell from watching him that he was very interested in what I said in class. One day he called me into his office and said to me, “Larry, I have never met a person who could alienate so many people in so short a time as yourself.” I thought he was my friend… He was my friend. Otherwise he would not have said anything.

My son was wayward. His circumstances were difficult and becoming more difficult. We prayed. We fasted. Twice we travelled thousands of miles to talk with him, to be with him. A lady from our church said to me, “Do you think your son knows you love him?” That was a low blow. Even now the question fills me with sadness. But she was right, I needed, more than anything else, to love my son, and I needed to let him know that I loved him. Today he knows I love him. And I know too that he loves me.

Whatever else might be said about the Israelites, despite their not heeding Samuel’s warning, they knew Samuel cared deeply for them and they pleaded for him to pray for them.

Though people may disregard our warnings, to throw up our hands and walk away is not the response we should have. May we be like Samuel who said to the Israelites, “Far be it from me to sin against God by not continuing to pray for you.”

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