My Dear Sister in Christ,
Jesus wanted to gather and nurture the people of Jerusalem, but they would not listen to Him (Matt 23:37). Have you ever seen your younger sister in Christ doing something that could honestly be done better to alleviate future pain and hardships? But you like this person and you want her to like you. What if she perceives your helpful advice as criticism and it creates a wedge between you? You have the potential for great good or great harm in front of you and you must proceed carefully and prayerfully.
What needs said will not be everything that we think. We had a chant for the younger children in a class setting that went, “Every thought that goes through my head does not need to come out my mouth.” Being free with advice usually means those around us learn to tune out or take lightly what we say. The opinionated person believes their way is always right (which is natural) and that others must conform to their evaluations to be correct (which is self-centered). When offering advice, we must be very careful that we are not replacing God’s Laws with our own judgements (Matt 15:9).
Even when we know the information we possess is absolutely God’s Will we should remember the warning of James 3:1 about the seriousness of assuming the role of a teacher. He said teachers will be judged more strictly. I don’t know about you, but I really do want more leniency when it comes to judgment. If I decide to speak up and say something to another as an authority, I need to be very sure it needs to be said and is as accurate as it can be. Opinions should be clarified to be such, and applications of wisdom are also in that category. We can beg for another to consider what we are saying without overstating our case and crossing that line between opinion and fact.
We are more likely to speak our mind to those we know well. Conversely, we accept advice more easily when we understand the other person has our best interests at heart. That does not mean you can only instruct the closest of friends, but they are probably the ones you will have the most success with. Sometimes you cannot afford to wait to develop a deep relationship with someone before addressing an issue. When time is of the essence you need to be open, honest, humble, and loving in what you say and trust they are mature enough to listen and evaluate the information provided to them. You do not want to hurt their feelings, but anticipating they will respond badly is not complimentary toward them. Just kindly and softly say what needs said (Prov 15:1). Do not just criticize. Ever. The goal is not to demoralize or belittle. Gently share what experience has taught you and offer a positive solution for any negative idea.
The final evaluation of Jesus in Matt 23:38 was, “Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!” Jesus gave His example, His teaching, and Himself to the people of Jerusalem. They had every advantage to accept Him, but they chose not to listen. There is only so much you can do to help others. In the end it is their choice to listen and that makes it their responsibility. God told Ezekiel to warn the people (Ezek 3:17-19). You can’t make them accept it or change, so reaffirm your respect for them and, above all, your love.
Your loving friend,
“Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you.” Proverbs 9:5