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|22 August, 1999|
I am not a good counsellor. I have taught counselling skills for more than 25 years to well over 2,000 people. I have done the courses and attended lectures in psychology. I have counselled hundreds of people every year for forty years, but I am not a good counsellor. A good counsellor listens without judging and understands without prejudice. I am not a good counsellor. I want to be directive. I want to confront people on certain issues where they have deeply hurt others. I want to tell people how they can overcome their problems. And I find there are many people I dislike.
For example, I am not good at counselling a man who batters his wife. Who regularly punches her in the face and demands she be servile. I find it hard to counsel that inadequate, cowardly man who is so violent. I want to challenge him to take a swing at me. I am not good counselling the woman who is blatantly racist. I end up telling her how unchristian and stupid she is. Apparently, one can be a good teacher without being a good practitioner!
I was not good counselling a man who came to me earlier this year to ask if I would speak about his good character in court. Without my testimony he would go to jail. He was a paedophile. He told me he had sexually assaulted 20 children. He said it was all in good fun and everyone had a good time. I was prejudiced and judgemental. I told him I hoped he would go to jail. I would never give him a character reference in court. I know the damage such people cause in innocent, powerless children.
He was hurt. He wondered how I could call myself a Christian if I refused to love him and help him. I told him I would direct my concern and compassion towards the children he had abused and would support his wife and children while he was in jail. I did arrange for him to have some basic legal support because even the guilty deserve to be advised on their legal position. The solicitor I arranged to support his court case came to me with the prosecution's evidence: the man abused more than 170 children. He penetrated little girls with a ballpoint pen and other implements. He is a monster! He deserves imprisonment.
Yet I remember someone rebuking of me: "You call yourself a minister and you do not like these people?" Yes. I do not like them. I find it difficult to counsel them. I do not like what they have done. Because I am a Christian I have deep concern for them and the people they have hurt, but I don't like them. Just because Christians love others, does not mean we like them. Many people have wrong ideas about loving and liking.
1. LOVE IS FUNDAMENTAL TO CHRISTIANITY.
To love others lies at the heart of the teaching of Jesus and His apostles. MT 22:37-8 Jesus said: "`Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: `Love your neighbour as yourself.'" Ever since the world has been taught the significance of love. For love is fundamental to Christian belief and behaviour.
Christian love makes sense of living. Christian love is therapeutic and makes for balanced living. "Love is the medicine for the sickness of the world," said Dr Karl Menninger. He tells his staff that the most important thing they can offer a patient is love. For when people learn to give and receive love, they can recover from most illness, whether physical or emotional. Dr. Menninger likes to repeat: "Love cures. It cures those who give it and it cures those who receive it." This is the secret behind the amazing success of the Menninger Clinic in Kansas, USA. Other psychologists and psychiatrists agree with Dr Menninger.
Dr Erich Fromm believes loneliness and the inability to love are underlying causes of emotional disorders. Dr Paul Tournier talks of the need to remove our masks and to discover and be discovered by others. For love can bring healing. Dr Hobart Mowrer, professor of psychology at the University of Illinios believes emotional illness results from a barrier between the conscious self and other people. It is our inability to love and be loved, that makes us ill. Honesty and sharing aids healing. Dr Carl Rogers, founder of the nondirective school of counselling, says he can quickly train psychotherapists who come to his University who have what he calls "love". He says there is no other word to describe the quality that makes a good counsellor. Without "love" no amount of training can make a person effective. The evidence mounts in medicine and psychology regarding the therapeutic need for love to be given and received. From every hand the evidence is that love is essential.
Professor Alfred Adler, the great psychiatrist, said "all human failures are the result of a lack of love". People unable to sustain a love relationship are ten times more likely to be chronically ill and five times more likely to be psychiatrically ill. The command of Jesus that we love one another seems to be a human imperative rather than an option. Unmarried people are more likely to be lonely, hence more likely to fall ill. Loneliness takes its toll of their health. Studies of mental illness show that the single, widowed and divorced have higher rates of mental illness than the married. We need love to stay alive. Premature death comes more frequently to those who have not married, or those whose marriages have broken down. Unmarried men are more likely to die of tuberculosis, cirrhosis of the liver, pneumonia, syphilis, accidental fire or explosion, murder, accidental falls, suicide or car accidents. These sorts of deaths are particularly likely among divorced men, next to the widowed. Good health needs love. Good marriages do marvels for most human beings, far more than most of us married people ever give credit to our spouses. The right kind of love conquers all.
2. THE RIGHT KIND OF LOVE IS A MATTER OF WILL.
I made an important discovery about the right kind of love. That discovery was liberating. It is that we are called to love people, but not necessarily to like them. I thought you had to like people to love them. But C.S.Lewis in one of his books opened my eyes. There are many people that we may not like because they are evil, vicious or cruel. We do not like a violent man.
Nor a racist woman. Nor an abusive man. We do not like that behaviour nor like those people. For Jesus never asked us to like them. He asked us to love them. Love means to have a deep care and concern for their welfare and future. That is not a matter of feeling but of will. We have debased the Christian concept of love and turned it into an emotional feeling, instead of a spiritual concern. I can care about people I do not like. General Idi Amin murdered thousands of people in Uganda. He tortured, raped and plundered. No one could like him. But his secretary, a Christian woman, told me on my radio program: "I love Idi Amin." His secretary did not mean she loved him in an emotional, romantic or sexual way. But as a committed Christian she deeply cared for his soul.
3. PAUL WAS THE APOSTLE OF CARING LOVE.
Jesus taught this deep concern for people and their welfare, even for the people with whom He became so very angry. His great Apostle Paul, in the first letter he wrote to the Christians in Corinth, Greece, described that deep concern we should have for others. In tennis love means nothing, but in Christianity it means everything. Paul emphasises three main points:
1. LOVE ALONE COUNTS. It is the ultimate quality. Not eloquence, though for the Greeks correct speech and rhetoric were regarded highly. But Paul says 13:1 "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal." Many speak about the problems of our world, but deep concern does something.
Neither does education count. The Greeks valued education, but Paul says: 13:2 "If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing." Neither do endowments count. Acts of public generosity counted in Greek culture, but Paul says v3 "If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing." Even dying a martyr is not enough if you are not motivated by deep concern.
2. LOVE ALONE TRIUMPHS. Love is the deep caring for another's good, and ultimately this attitude towards others wins! Lest you not understand, Paul describes this deep Christian caring in fifteen ways. This love has both negative and positive aspects. Paul describes 8 negatives and 7 positive aspects. The negatives simply distinguish deep Christian concern from other kinds of behaviour. The Christian's deep concern: v4-6 "does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth." This distinguishes deep Christian concern from friendship, from family commitment, from sexual lust - all other words Paul rejected. Christian love triumphs.
3. LOVE ALONE ENDURES. That is the message of the seven positives. Paul writes: v4 "Love is patient, love is kind. v7-8 "It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." Our deep concern persists over everything else.
A Christian's deep concern is complete, permanent and supreme. Everything else is transient, partial, limited. Deep Christian concern alone endures. Paul ends, 13 "now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. This deep, abiding concern Christians show in dealing with other people is the basis of our relationships. This is an attitude we must take with us into the twenty-first century. Only that kind of attitude will enable this world to recover from the wars and divisions we have seen in the twentieth century. Only this kind of attitude will hold families strong amid all the forces that would divide us.
There will still be a need for faith and hope as these are essentials to please an eternal God. But love is the greatest of these three graces because through faith love unites the Christian personally to God 1John 4:10, 19 and through God's love Rom 5:5 we are enabled to love one another. John 13:34, 35 Love communicates grace and identifies us as children of God. John 13:34, 35; 1John 4:8 The love of God, seen in the death of Jesus upon the Cross is powerful medicine for the sickness of the world. It is the only remedy for the terminal disease in each heart! That deep concern is the most practical way to relate with people, even people you do not like. Even bad people! Even enemies! It was God's deep concern or you, that led Him to heal your deepest need, forgive your worst sin and enable your reconciliation with Himself. That deep, abiding, Christian, Godly concern, is what we must take into the twenty-first century, to enable us to relate to others.
Rev Dr Gordon Moyes
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