When I started maturing spiritually, initially, things in my life seemed to be getting much better. Relationships improve when you’re able to humble yourself and see your own faults and then able to truly love those around you. Then something unexpected happened.
Sometimes when we start growing spiritually and feel convicted of so many of the issues in our own hearts like pride, envy, and greed just to name a few, we also start to see with a new clarity these same struggles in others.
This is where another trap is set to ensnare us in pride and self righteousness. If we take the bait and allow ourselves to condemn others. Again though, if we are living in the Spirit ourselves, we should know this too is wrong. So what do we do when we see our loved ones getting caught up in sins that our eyes can plainly see but theirs cannot.
This was truly something I struggled with as my faith was growing. I didn’t want to be judgmental as I knew I too was guilty and in truth still struggle with those same sins. I started having this internal struggle in some relationships where I realized things were maybe not as they seemed.
What kind of things am I talking about? Well, pride is definitely a big one. It has been one areas I’ve felt convicted of maybe more so than any other. It is pride that causes us to resist loving correction and justify our own faulty thoughts and actions. Once I could see it in myself, I started to really see it in others. People that will not submit to Jesus or to anyone else, so convinced they are in the right.
I also see a lot of idolatry. No one I know is worshiping a golden calf but they definitely have their hearts set to the gains in this world more than they do for pleasing God. Vanity, wanting the approval of men and boasting are all things that have come to light in some of these relationships and I’ve struggled with how to deal with that.
The Bible tells us that we should first remove the log from our own eyes before removing the spec from our brothers so I believe we need to take a harsh look at ourselves first. If we feel convicted on these things and continue to strive to overcome our biggest struggles I think we have a right heart for wanting to help others.
The Bible also tells us that we should deal with these issues with the person directly and if they don’t listen, we should bring other witnesses. This is what’s hard. I truly can’t imagine pulling some of these people aside and saying “I really love you but I think your faith is severely lacking”. I really just can’t imagine that going well. Now if a friend were caught up in some truly horrible scheme that seems very different but I’m talking about these things that are so hidden from their hearts that I truly don’t think I or anyone else can convict them on. I know how it would have gone over had someone approached me years ago about these things. Not well. I would have justified my own faults all the more and thought them to be rather arrogant.
So what can we do in these relationships? Here’s what I think.
1.) Pray. Pray for these people you care about to have their eyes opened and to feel convicted of God. Pray hard and pray specifically for these things and leave it in God’s hands.
2.) Try to lead by example. This goes back to making sure the log is out of your own eye. If you are living a life that doesn’t worship these false gods it can be a motivator to those around you. You may not see it having an affect but remember that God holds the power to soften someone else’s heart and we never know in what way He May use us.
3.) Speak truth, not flattery. When we are around these people make sure we are staying in the light. If they start gossiping near you, walk away to send a message that you will not participate. With your tongue do not speak harsh words against someone else. Do not try to show off with your friends or boast. Be kind with your words without flattering just to be liked and accepted.
4.) If you find yourself tempted in these relationships to fall back into old patterns that are harmful you may need to make some difficult decisions about what relationships you can stay in and which ones you may need to move on from. You can still act lovingly to people and not allow them to harm you spiritually by setting good boundaries.
I hope this helps someone. It can be difficult growing spiritually while others in our life remain stuck but with the right heart we can love them and love God.