Pastor’s Friday Comments (03.22.19)

All of us say foolish things from time to time. The more we try to say the more likely we are to utter something that we later regret. More unfortunate, however, is when we repeat some pious-sounding phrase many times without realizing that the statement is false.

High on my list of foolish things that people say is, “I know how you feel.” Some people who have never had an experience remotely like the specific situation of the person they are addressing are clearly wrong in making such a vacuous statement. However, there are plenty of other well-meaning people who think, because they have experienced something similar, that they have some insight into the way another person is feeling. In the words of Ira Gershwin, “It ain’t necessarily so.”

In the first place, no two situations are exactly alike because no two persons are exactly alike. Your prior experience isn’t the same as theirs; your current situation isn’t the same as theirs; your relationship to any other individual isn’t the same as any other person’s. There are simply too many variables for any of us to say to another person, “I know how you feel.”

The most we can do is say something to the effect that, “I’ve been through something that strikes me as being somewhat similar to what you are facing. If you think it would help, I’d be glad to talk and pray with you. I can give you some ideas about what helped me, but I can’t guarantee that they will help you.” People (for the most part) appreciate honesty and a candid statement like that could open up a dialogue that might truly aid someone facing a difficult decision.

One of the reasons this is on my mind these days is I am seeing an awful lot of pronouncements about how other people should lead their lives. These “proclaimers of the truth” are positive that they know how everyone else should act, whom they should love, where they should (or shouldn’t) live, how they ought to behave. Expressing these opinions is either a callous lack of interest in what another person may be going through or a false assumption that you already know.

The danger is compounded if, as a Christian, you try to back up your opinion by some cherry-picking of Scripture that appears to match what you already thought. That’s starting from the wrong position of forming an opinion and then trying to back it up instead of letting the Scriptures speak to you. And it continues with the arrogance of assuming you know how Scripture should be applied in someone else’s life. Clear and forthright expression of the Gospel is expected of Christians; applying it to someone else’s life goes beyond our job description.

Our commission is to love. To go beyond that to expressing an opinion about how someone lives his or her life simply assumes a level of knowledge we don’t have. Just love — and leave the intercession into another person’s heart to the One who gave his life for them — and for you.