These days, buzzwords like “spiritual abuse” and “church hurt” are flying around. At my church, one of our sayings is that “church should be the safest place in the world for hurting people.” It’s a bummer that we have to say this because every church and Christian should be safe, but that isn’t the case.
Today’s question: How can we be safe spaces for others?
Without safety, people won’t stick around to either hear the gospel or grow in grace. Some of us are pretty comfortable in our Christian skin that we don’t always recognize that our words or language is making others uncomfortable.
Being safe doesn’t mean that you excuse sin or you ignore suffering. However, you are a safe space when people (saved or unsaved) can be honest with you about their sins, struggles or their circumstances without fear of abuse, judgement, or being shamed. You are a safe space when you apply God’s Holy Spirit to what you say, when you say it, and even what you don’t say.
Let today be a wake-up call for ALL of us to not only share the gospel, but we will also be safe people who live out the gospel, too.
We can find practical guidance to apply here:
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.
-James 1:19 NLT
Let’s look at the three elements of that verse and how applying James’ wisdom can help me and you be a safe space for other Christians:
- You all must be quick to listen.
How many of us are quick to give advice, interrogate, freak out or judge? That’s often what happens when someone tells us something and our anxiety over their spiritual condition overrides what they need in the moment.
Here’s the biggest issue: When we’re thinking about our response instead of really listening, we hear their words, we likely miss listening to their heart. When we listen well, we can often hear their pain, frustration, fear, or their grief?
There are some questions that I like asking to help me be a better listener to not only the person’s words, but also listen to their heart and their struggle. Consider asking these questions the next time someone approaches you with a problem:
What’s been hard for you?
What have you been praying about?
Where do you see God working?
What questions are you asking yourself these days?
What kind of support would be most helpful for you?
God is powerful enough to straighten the out. What if God’s purpose for us to be a safe place to hear them out.
2. You all must be slow to speak.
Sometimes, I think that we’re talking over the voice of the Holy Spirit in people’s lives. They share something and we’re right there with something to say. What if the Holy Spirit is speaking to their hearts in that moment? What if we paused to give the person space to hear a possible leading from God’s Spirit?
In my weekly Al-Anon meetings, we keep our space safe by NOT giving advice after someone shares their story or even their frustration. Happy Monday Community, can we admit that we often don’t know the full 360 view of a person’s problem or journey, but God’s Spirit does. Let’s get out of the way after someone shares and give the Spirit some space to speak to them.
If you need to say something, try encouraging words like “Thank you for sharing that with us” or “We’re so glad that you are here” or “We are here and we’re praying for you.”
After the meeting, if you still feel God prompting you to speak, then you can approach the person and ask permission to share something on your heart.
3. You all must be slow to get angry.
Anger is a self-centered emotion. When we’re angry, it’s about what we’re feeling inside, not about someone else. We get angry when we’re offended or we’re outraged by others sin. We’re slow to get angry when we remember our sins and our struggles so we’re not quick to get offended or judge. Since God is slow to anger with us, then we need to model that and coach ourselves to not be so quick to be disappointed, offended, judgmental or critical of others.
REFLECTION: As you think about being a safe space as a Christian for others, what else would you add to today’s devotional? When you reflect on James 1:19, which one(s) stand out to you?