Sunday, November 16, 2008

Unsolicited Advice

I have been wondering, "When is it my duty before God to give unsolicited advice?" I look at people in the Bible like Elijah and Jonah and Nathan and John the Baptist. They all gave unsolicited advice (most of it unpleasant). Of course they were prophets. But as a child of God don't I have some of the same responsibilities: to warn, to rebuke. Now I know that unsolicited generally negative advice will likely turn many (if not most) people off. Then again, Jonah led a whole city to repentance and Nathan, a king. So how does this fit into my life?

When should I speak out against daycare (in a loving way of course) to people that have their newborn in daycare?

When should I speak out against shacking up to people that have been living together for years?

When should I stand up for husband headship amid Christian women who are disrespecting their husbands?

I have often heard that you need to have a strong relationship first. But is that what we find in the Bible? Nathan had a strong relationship with David, but Jonah hated the people of Nineveh and waited for them to die. John the Baptist rebuked whole crowds of people at a time.

When are we to speak the truth in love and when are we to keep our big mouths shut?

Am I more likely to be sinning when I remain silent or when I speak up?

In part I think that the real crux of this matter is: Am I willing to speak the truth even at the cost of friendships or ridicule?

Is most of this angst really about the right or wrong of saying something or is it fear of people and what they will think, say, or do?
I would love to hear all of your comments!

18 comments:

Raymond V Banner said...

Suppose that quite a few people, myself included, ask themselves the question, "When do I speak out about my convictions and confront other people and when do I keep quiet, especially when it involves a rebuke or disagreeing viewpoint with another?"
It seems to me that we should speak or act out of a burdened conviction. Better yet if we have facts and reasons to back up our assertion. It also seems to me that we should attempt to remove as much as possible our own personal anger, resentment, critical spirit, or pride from the subject or action at hand. Perhaps better yet if we can offer a remedy, option, or personal assistance to aid the person or circumstance under discussion. Finally, the old adage of praying first for your adversary before reproving him/her is, I think, sound advice.

In conclusion, frankly I do not claim a good understanding or performance in the execution of such duties.

Applied Christianity said...

As usual, Raymond, good advice. You made me think of some more questions which I added to the post.

God's Dancing Child said...

AC,
I have had the exact same thoughts going through my head of late, about all the same topics (plus more, as I am sure you have as well).
No answers, just acknowledging we're both wondering the same thing. :)
-Jess

onemom said...

Tough, but excellent questions. Ezekiel 33:1-9 is a powerful passage about this topic.

Wickle said...

This is a fascinating question ... So, before I say anything else, I'm going to give unsolicited advice and suggest that you submit this to the Christian Carnival if you're willing.

If you won't take that as advice, maybe I'll beg.

Anyway ...

It's a great question, and I think that there are a few things to consider.

For one thing, there's who you are to whom. If you walk up to a total stranger and say, "You know, the nature of your relationship is an affront to God," you're not likely to accomplish much of anything.

On the other hand, that same message delivered by a friend might gain something. That same message delivered to a general audience might well accomplish something, too.

It's tough to find that right balance. I'll let you know if I ever manage it.

This is a genuinely great post, and a brilliant question.

Applied Christianity said...

Here are OneMom's verses in the NIV.

1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 "Son of man, speak to your countrymen and say to them: 'When I bring the sword against a land, and the people of the land choose one of their men and make him their watchman, 3 and he sees the sword coming against the land and blows the trumpet to warn the people, 4 then if anyone hears the trumpet but does not take warning and the sword comes and takes his life, his blood will be on his own head. 5 Since he heard the sound of the trumpet but did not take warning, his blood will be on his own head. If he had taken warning, he would have saved himself. 6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes the life of one of them, that man will be taken away because of his sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for his blood.' 7 "Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. 8 When I say to the wicked, 'O wicked man, you will surely die,' and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. 9 But if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his ways and he does not do so, he will die for his sin, but you will have saved yourself.


Wickle,
Thanks for the kind words. I will take your advice.

onemom said...

Thanks for posting the text AC. I thought verse 8 was especially powerful and if there is a direct answer in scripture to the question you posed, that would be it.

Applied Christianity said...

So, OneMom, are you saying that if the situation is soul threatening then we must speak up and otherwise we should shut up?

Applied Christianity said...

And you are welcome (in regards to posting the scripture).

onemom said...

If we are to look at these things in light of eternity and not in light of what is comfortable, then it would seem (based on the Ezekiel passage) to be better to speak up.

Ronnica said...

Going along with what others are saying, I think that there is a difference between speaking out on a matter of opinion/interpretation (such as your example of using daycare at an early age...it might not be a good idea and there are relevant biblical principles, but you can't find it condemned in the Bible) and clear biblical truths (like shacking up). If it's a matter of sin in another believer's life, then that's where you need to speak up in a loving and personal way. If they're an unbeliever, then you need to speaking about the necessity of accepting the gospel, not the putting aside of a particular sin, because even if they stop shacking up, for instance, they'll still go to hell.

Applied Christianity said...

OneMom,
I think you are probably right. That reminded me of this from 2Timothy 1:7.

"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline."

Wickle said...

Really good point from Ronnica.

On the subject of day care, there's also, often, the possibility that there's something that we don't know.

Applied Christianity said...

Ronnica, Thanks for visiting and for the comment. The main reason that I would feel called to speak out about it is that so few people realize the harm that being separated from parents at an early age does children.

Wickle,
I think that the special circumstances are a rarity. While the special circumstances do exist (the single mom with no family or friend to watch the child), I would say that the vast majority of people ditch their kids in daycare so that they can live in a nice house or because they both love their jobs or they "can't imagine spending all day with their kids".

Dube said...

I found your blog from a link on OneMom's blog. Very interesting! It seems that the times Jesus spoke out the most were against the Pharisees, who thought they were religiously perfect, more so than to the "sinners" of His time. I always find that to be an interesting thing.

Very good discussion!

Applied Christianity said...

Dube,

Thanks for visiting my blog. I think that you are right. The Pharisees were often publically corrected by Jesus. I think that it is more important to give unsolicited advice from a biblical perspective to Christians. With non-Christians, I could see the need to be more cautious. On the other hand, Jesus only said a few sentences to the woman at the well before mentioning that she was living with someone. He didn't blast her for it though. I imagine it was a gentler, more subtle reprimand than a Pharisee in the same situation would have gotten.

Becky said...

How good are you at accepting unsolicited advice from others?

Applied Christianity said...

Hey Becky,
I haven't heard from you in a while (except for your Christmas newsletter of course). I would say that it is not easy to take unsolicited advice. One time a friend of mine in Phoenix told me many things that I did not want to hear. Some of it I ignored, but other parts I took to heart and worked on. I would rather someone give me advice than to not. I can always ignore it if I think it is inappropriate. But if I never hear it, I can't incorporate it.