Dealing with the Fallen

I was asked recently what suggestions I would give to people who are trying to reach out to someone in their life who has made or is making a bad decision or who has fallen into some type of sin. How should we approach the person? What is or is not effective and appropriate in those moments? How can we love a person while disagreeing with them?

I can't tell you how to deal with these situations in every circumstance but I can share what I have learned through my experience.  Here are some things I would encourage you to consider when dealing with someone you love who is choosing self over what appears to be God's best:

Guilt is rarely an effective motivator.  Guilt rarely generates true change. And even if you are able to "guilt" a person into making the right decision, rarely will that decision change or sustain their heart.

You do not know the whole story - don't assume you do.  There is always more to the story than what you know. Embrace that reality when you are dealing with both the wounder and the wounded. Remember that most people make bad decisions because they are dealing with a wounded and sinful heart and not because they want to ruin their lives.

Reach out to him/her regardless of what others say. I'll never forget a friend of mine telling me that he did not reach out to me because a third party told him I would not talk to him. He apologized deeply for making this assumption based on what someone else said instead of reaching out to me personally. 

Don't give up on him/her. I was flooded with phone calls, e-mails, and texts. Many people reached out to me once and I never heard from them again.  I'm not sure what the balance is between I'm here if you need me and I'm not giving up on him/her.  I'm not sure how many calls are enough or too little. I'm not sure what the limit is on reaching out to someone. I just know Jesus never gave up on me - He pursued me even when I didn't want to be pursued. I think you just have to ask yourself, "to what length would I want someone to pursue me?"  And whatever your answer is - go a little further.

Love him/her with an "in spite of" love and not a "because of" love.  Wounded and hurt people do not always need to be reminded of their depravity. But they often need to be reminded that someone loves them in spite of them. We all need people in our life who will love us even when they totally disagree with our decisions. Be that person.

Pray. Regardless of whether you feel God is hearing and answering your desires, keep praying.

Don't fall into the gossip trap. We love to talk about other people's sins to the point we commit sin ourselves in the form of gossip, slander, and backbiting.  Just a reminder: it often takes more discipline to abstain from a sin like gossip than it does a "big" sin like adultery. But also remember: both are sins! Be a part of the solution - not the problem.

Befriend during tough times - don't defriend.  I wrote a blog about this idea several months ago so I won't repeat it here. But just remember: your true friends manifest themselves during the down times - not just the up times. Be a true friend. 

Speak the truth. In Love. I also wrote about this difficult balance a few months ago so no need to elaborate here. But just remember that you tend to default to one of the two sides of this equation. Pray that God will enable you to know how to do both.

Never forget the power of the gospel. We tend to limit the ability of the gospel to forgive and heal.

Grace is greater than sin.  I desire to fault on the side of grace and not on the side of condemnation. But to be honest until I recognized the depth and capability of my own depravity, I was unable to comprehend the magnitude of His grace.  I'm not sure we truly grasp our need for grace until it is all we can rely upon.  Pray for God to help you understand your own need for grace - it will enable you to act with grace in the tough times.

I am more prone to listen to you when I know you love me. Once someone knows you love them in spite of them, they will more likely listen to you - even if they make a decision with which you disagree.  You have no authority to speak personally into the lives of people in whom you have not invested personally. Loving someone with the love of Jesus grants you the right to speak into their life.

Never forget - broken people can still love Jesus. I am broken. You are broken. Jesus gave His life for broken people.

These suggestions are based primarily upon my own experience yet many of the truths are transferable into most situations when you are dealing with someone who is making or has made a wrong decision.  Hopefully you can apply the ones that are relevant to your life and in those difficult situations seek to be Jesus in those moments people need Him the most. 

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