"My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ,
don't show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting
with a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in.
If you show special attention to the man wearing fine
clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you", but say to the poor man,
"You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet",
have you not discriminated among yourselves
and become judges with evil thoughts."
James 2:1-4—Part 2
I've been thinking about the need each of us has to have safe people in our lives. I have also been contemplating the calling we have on our lives to be safe people for others. Last week we identified that a safe friend is one that allows a person to become the person God created her to be rather than trying to get her to conform to a cultural or church mold. We also learned that a safe person will be someone who allows and encourages a person to fulfill their God given role in the church and willingly be a part of the process of discovering her gifts by affirmation and honest feedback. Thirdly, we learned that a safe friend is one that allows a person to be real with what she does not have. Today we are going to look at two more characteristics of a safe person.
The first characteristic is that a safe person allows a friend to be real with her feelings. This comes from Romans 12:15--"Rejoice with them that rejoice, and weep with them that weep." A safe person allows a friend to feel and express her feelings. She will allow her to laugh when she needs to laugh and to dance when she needs to dance. She will also encourage her friend to cry when she needs to cry and to express frustration when she needs to express it. A safe person will not discount her friend's feelings, but will validate them and normalize them. A safe person knows expressing doubts is the first step in replacing them with faith. She also knows that bringing fear to the light is the first step in instilling courage into a anxious heart. A safe person knows that when a friend is angry she needs to express it in a godly way so God can replace it with peace and she won’t shame her for feeling it. When a person is grieving a safe person allows her to heal without putting a time limit on it. A safe person may at times have to encourage her to seek help when she is stuck in anger or grief or using self destructive behaviors to express or numb her feelings, but she never shames her for having either.
Secondly, a safe person will model transparency in her own life. This comes from two different verses: "But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I will delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of righteous man is powerful and effective." James 5:16. A safe person is honest about where she is in her own growth. She won’t pretend she is more mature than she is, nor will she ever hide her maturity. She will be humble enough to confess her own faults and seek counsel when she needs to and be open and honest about it. I have had several people tell me that the hardest thing about being a Christian is that when they were really hurting, their church members told them counseling was wrong and a sign of not trusting God enough. Yet the church did not help them overcome the problems with which they struggled. A godly counselor can help you find steps to get to where God is calling you. I have found sharing my story with others helped others find the courage to seek God as a healer with the help of a counselor. I have also experienced the joy of hearing young ladies confess their sin after I shared my testimony and find joy in God’s goodness and grace. A safe friend is one who when you share a struggle, admits she shares the same struggle and offers mutual accountability.
In conclusion, let me ask you a couple of questions. Do you have safe Christian friends with whom you can be totally transparent? If not, what can you do to develop safe friendships? Are you, yourself, a safe person? Choose one thing you can do today to become a safer friend to someone. Read through one of the gospels and see how Christ related to people. They found Him someone with whom they could talk truthfully and be real. I wonder what we each can do to become more like Him.
Prayer: Father, we know from scripture You are the ultimate "safe person." Thank you for loving and accepting us unconditionally. We also know You have called us to be safe people. We know the church is to be a place of refuge for the hurting and the fearful. It is also a place for sinners to be accepted and loved and encouraged to become more like You. For the church to be that we each need to commit to being safe people. Please love and encourage others through each of us and make the church what You meant it to be. Amen.