On August 15, 2012

After The Smoke Clears

So I’d like to begin a short blog series today, that’ll go for the next few weeks on Judging and Judgmental Christians…and why we need them.

A few years ago, I sat down with someone who I loved a whole lot, they knew I loved them, and they loved me. We had been friends for years, we had laughed, cried and lived life together. But over the course of the past few weeks and months I had noticed that my friend had been making choices that were becoming more and more destructive and refusing to take responsibility for the outcomes. He was headed down a path that almost everyone who loved him knew was going somewhere toxic…the only problem was he couldn’t see it.

So I prayed about it for a while, probably not as long as I should have, then sat down with my friend over dinner and told him my concerns and why I was a little bothered by his actions for the past few weeks. I tried to be vulnerable myself, and give examples of how I’d been struggling and was struggling with my own junk, I tried to be as non-threatening and gentle but still as direct as possible. I tried to love and be a good friend.

And it went terrible.

This has actually happened dozens of times in my life. I’ve been on both the receiving and the giving end of this. And chances are, if you are a Jesus follower, or just a good friend, you’ve had an experience like this before. You’ve tried to gently correct your brother or sister and had it blow up in your face. You’ve walked away wondering how you could have done it better. If you’re like me, relationships mean a lot, and the idea of having a broken relationship hurts like nothing else, especially when you feel like the one who damaged it. And the temptation is to stop being the kind of friend who speaks into (and allows them to speak into) the lives of the people we love around us.

In the book of 1st Samuel King David has hit a kind of lull in his career. He’s done the whole rags to riches thing. He’s gone from shepherd boy bringing the cheese, to the King of Israel. He’s the Commander in Chief and so when the time of years come when the armies go off to defend the borders of their nations, David feels like he’s paid his dues, and he doesn’t go.

You’ve probably heard this story, David sees a woman named Bathsheba late at night taking a bath on her roof, and he is smitten. Even though he finds out that she’s married, he sends for her. Which is a Hebrew metaphor for Bow-Chik-a-wow-wow. She get’s pregnant, and Kings then like Kings today know how to cover up there mistakes. David dives deeper and deeper into scandal. And what started as a 1 night stand eventually became murder.

But David got away with it all. 

At least he thought he did.

Because no amount of cover-up can fool God. And so God sends Nathan to David to let him know that he hasn’t fooled everyone. Nathan is going to go in there and tell David a parable that would rival Pixar. He stirs up David’s sympathy and anger, and right when David is about to unleash all the power of the Kingdom against some fool who overstepped his boundaries, Nathan turns around and tells David, “You are the man.”

I know that a lot of us have heard this story, but I wonder what it was like when it was first playing out. I bet when Nathan got the word that he had to go to David and be his unrequested accountability partner he was probably terrified. David, after all, was the King. He could snap his fingers and Nathan would be come as dead as the lamb in his cute little story. David had already killed to cover up, so why would Nathan be exempt?

But I think there’s even more than that. I imagine that Nathan probably liked and respected David. I mean surely they didn’t just let anybody into the Palace, I bet David and Nathan were friends. So there’s more than just Nathan’s life on the line here. He is marching up to the throne to call out a friend. He is about to blow up the relationship.

And the way the Bible tells the story, David immediately buckles. He admits that he has sinned before the LORD. But I bet there was a whole lot of awkward silences and glares in between that whole “come to Jesus” moment.

I think of the many times that my good friends have set me down and told me hard truths about myself. I think of the initial emotions that come to the top, and some of the hurtful knee-jerk reactions that I’ve had. But it is true that the wounds of a friend are more faithful than the kisses of an enemy. And even though my friends are risking blowing up the relationship, after the smoke clears I am able to appreciate what they have done for me.

You know what’s interesting about King David, we never hear about another conversation with him and Nathan. We can read between the lines and think that must mean that David and Nathan’s relationship never got back to where it was before.

But, did you know that David actually named one of his sons Nathan?

As if the best thing he could hope for his son, was that he would be the kind of man who was able to tell the hard truths to the people that he loved. Maybe he did that because he now understood just how important those people were in the world. He wanted his son to be like the man who called him out.

Here’s the thing I know about us. At the time, nobody likes risking the relationship. At the time, nobody likes having someone interfere in their business.

But after the smoke clears, we almost always are able to see in hindsight, the way that God was working to make us into the man or woman that He is calling us to be.

So take heart faithful friend. It may be difficult but there’s a chance the thing you don’t want to do the most is actually the thing that will bless your friend the best.

You may, for a short time, be hated or disliked or ignored. But God may just be at work in that too.

And after the smoke clears, maybe they’ll name their kid after you.

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  • Keith Brenton

    Ah, but isn’t the real difference between being a judgmental Christian friend and being a Christian friend the ability to judge some act(s) of a person wrong without judging the person to be bad, wicked, evil?

    That doesn’t mean it’s going to go well when you let them know that you’re aware, because conscience that has been self-fooled will suddenly make the connection between self and sin, and the person will judge him/herself! (And guess who the judging gets transfered to when the self-defense mechanism kicks in!)

    So you just live ‘em anyway, even when it hurts. Even when you might lose them for a time, or forever.

    Don’t you know David wished his friend Jonathan was still around when Nathan called him on his sins?

    “A friend loves at all times … in adversity.” – Proverbs 17:17

  • http://stormented.com Jonathan Storment

    Bro. Keith, I like your distinction. I don’t think the world actually needs more judgmental Christians, but we do need to be the kind of Christians who are both open to and able to give honest concerns with one another…Once we’ve taken the log out of our own eye of course. Thanks for weighing in. 

  • Sharon Epps

    Thank you, Jonathan.  I am literally praying today about how to approach a friend.  God used you as his mouthpiece!

  • Danny Gill

    Well said, Jonathan.

  • Bett

    Jonathan, wonderful point! However, may I add, my opinion. I don’t think anyone, friend nor Church should divide relationships because it is Gods divine order not ours. For He alone created it and put together. Only He can pull together or pull apart. Why? Matthew 6:14. Matthew 7:12 Matthew 7:1-5 Matthew 19:1-8
    I agree with You.