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5 GRACE Biblical Counseling Skills: Part 2

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Note: Developed from Spiritual Friends. Spiritual Friends is part of the ABC’s biblical counseling curriculum and the ABC’s certification process. In Spiritual Friends you learn how to develop twenty-two biblical counseling relational competencies.

This is the second in a ten-part ABC series. In this blog series, we’re learning five biblical counseling and one-another skills by using the acronym GRACE.

·         G—Grace Connecting: Proverbs 27:6

·         R—Rich Soul Empathizing: Romans 12:15

·         A—Accurate/Active Spiritual Listening: John 2:23-4:43

·         C—Caring Spiritual Conversations: Ephesians 4:29

·         E—Empathetic Scriptural Explorations: Isaiah 61:1-3

Building a Connected Spiritual Friendship: Galatians 6:1

How do you develop connected relationships? Exploring how not to develop grace relationships begins to answer that question.

How Not to Build Grace Connections: Job 16:2

Job accused his “friends” of being “miserable comforters.” The word “miserable” means troublesome, vexing, and sorrow-causing. They were the opposite of “comforters”—they were not consoling, sympathetic; they did not feel deeply Job’s hurt. They never said or conveyed in any way, “It’s normal to hurt.”

Instead of grace connecting, they practiced condemning distancing. Read the verses below and notice examples of their poor relational abilities flowing out of their poor theology (Job 42:7) and their cold hearts: 

1. Superiority: Job 5:8; 8:2; 11:2-12; 12:1-3; 15:7-17

            “We’re better than you. You’re inferior to us.”

2. Judgmentalism: Job 4:4-9; 15:2-6

            “It’s not normal to hurt! Your suffering is due to your sinning!” 

3. Advice without Insight/Discernment: Job 5:8; 8:5-6; 11:13-20; 42:7

“Here’s what I would do if I were you.” “Do this and life’s complexities will melt away.” “I have the secret that will fix your situation.” They offered quick, trite advice. They were rescuers, answer men, and cliché makers.          

How to Build Grace Connections: Galatians 6:1-3 

Remember that connecting is a commitment to love another person. It is compassionate discernment in action. It is not a technique to be mastered, but a way of life to be nurtured by personal communion with Christ. Communion with Christ leads to connection with others.

Galatians 6:1-3, in the context of Paul’s discussion of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, exposes how to build grace relationships.

1. Loving Motivation: “You who are spiritual.”

The fruit of the Spirit characterizes effective spiritual friends. The Holy Spirit is the Comforter who comes alongside to help in time of need. In the Spirit’s power, you are to be a friend acting in the best interest of your friend. You’re a friend acting on behalf of another, interceding for, defending, and advocating. You’re an encourager standing up for, standing behind, standing with, and standing back-to-back and alongside your spiritual friend. The “spiritual” person is like a coach who has been in the game, lost, struck out, but has some game experience that sure does help.

2. Intimate Friendship/Knowledge: “Brothers.”

Spiritual friendship requires intimate family relationship. “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17). “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). Picture best friends hiking a mountain. One has been there before, so she’s the guide who has found a few good routes and gladly shares them with her best friend.

Evaluation forms from folks who have been “counseled” by lay encouragers express this sense of intimate friendship. “Even though we had never met before, our times were like two friends walking together.” “I could feel your concern; we were on the same level.” “You accepted me. You didn’t scold me like a Mom, but were honest like a friend.”

3. Communicating Equality: “But watch yourself or you also may be tempted.” “Restore gently.”

Gentleness looks like a tamed stallion, strength under control, firm compassion, mature self-control, and power and love mingled through wisdom. Christ labels himself “gentle” in Matthew 11:29, saying that unlike the Pharisees who were sin-spotters and burden-givers, he was Rest-Giver and Sin-Bearer. 

“Watch” (Galatians 6:1) is the Greek word skopon from which we gain our word “scope.” Put yourself under the microscope before examining your spiritual friend. As a grace connector, maintain a strong mental attention to your own potential temptability. Remain humble in spirit.

4. Demonstrated Commitment: “Restore.” “Carry each other’s burden.”

Paul places “restore” in the present, continual tense. Maintain a patient persistence in mending, furnishing, equipping, and setting the dislocated member of the body back in place. Picture the marathon runner. “I love you for the long haul. I’m in this relationship for a lifetime.” Picture the physical therapistwho brings her patient back to the place of health by pushing without being pushy.

Paul also describes the spiritual friend as a committed burden-bearer. “Carry each other’s burden” (Galatians 6:2). God calls you to pick up and help carry the weight that overwhelms your friend. “Weight” means anything pressing on people physically, emotionally, or spiritually that makes a demand on their resources. When your friend’s platelets are low, become a spiritual blood transfusion of grace. When your friend’s RPMs are slowing, become their energy conduit.

Carrying each other’s burdens is not optional, nor the domain of a few. “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). Pastors can’t say, “I just want to preach from the pulpit,” not if they intend on fulfilling Christ’s law. Lay people can’t say, “That’s the pastor’s job,” not if they intend on obeying Christ’s law. Professional counselors can’t say, “I must maintain a professional distance,” not if they intend on living Christ’s law.

The Rest of the Story

In our next post in this mini-series, we’ll explore Rich Soul Empathy—Climbing in the Casket.

Join the Conversation

Becky has just told you about her boss’s unwanted advances. You know of her past trust in him as a good Christian friend. You know something of Becky’s fear, her sense of betrayal, her concerns about telling her husband Jim (who also is a good friend to her boss). How would you provide grace connecting with Becky?


Posted on May 6, 2011