Topics for discussion will vary from practical “nuts and bolts” to more theoretical or even theological themes. Last night, one of the matters we considered was the very dilemma I wrote about in my last post – the balance between “grace and truth”: how to find the way of wisdom when dealing with “wrongdoing” of various kinds in the flock.
Many of our wisest sages contributed reflections. And these are some of the things they said:
Seek advice from trusted brethren – “in the multitude of counsellors there is safety” – but be wary of mere “public opinion”.
The aim is to help people grow in the grace they have received, and to find more grace; to help them find more fear of the Lord.
Explain your reasoning so that people can see where you’re coming from (even if they disagree!)
Grace and truth are like the love and justice that meet at the cross – not a contradiction, but a paradox. We must be clear about boundaries – this is gracious; we must love people – this is truth.
Know yourself – if you’re inclined to be a “man pleaser” distrust your inclination to “smooth it all over”; if you’re inclined to be confrontational distrust your inclination to “have it out there and then”. Rather than automatically trusting your reaction, find wisdom.
However – remember that God has given you the grace for those you are pastorally responsible for: so love bravely, have confidence and know that God can use even your mistakes.
Grace has big ears; truth has big eyes. So listen kindly and seek to understand, but look out for manipulation and don’t be naïve.
“Better is open rebuke than hidden love.” Grace can be in the rebuke.
If there is a heart issue in someone, it will come up again and again until it is tackled. Knowing this can take off some of the pressure (of public opinion?) to deal with it all “now!” Wait and learn and the next time it comes up, you can deal with it in wisdom.
“Grace trains us”. “See to it that no-one fails to obtain the grace of God”.
The basic pattern of a person’s moral growth is from law, to social cohesion, to personal integrity. Seek to lead them along this path.