Competent to Counsel: Character Counts

If you want to help your struggling friend, what qualities do you need to develop in order to care like Christ? Yesterday we viewed the biblical answer to that question. “I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another” (Romans 15:14). In this verse and the surrounding context, we discover the “4C Résumé of a Spiritual Friend”:

*Character: “Full of Goodness”

*Content/Conviction: “Complete in Knowledge”

*Competence: “Competent to Instruct One Another”

*Community: “Brothers”

Loving Like Jesus: Reflecting Christ—“Full of Goodness”

Is Paul saying that Christians who are far from Christ and unable to relate their way out of a paper bag are powerful spiritual friends? Of course not. Powerful spiritual friends have résumés with “full of goodness” as the first qualification, the first piece of evidence, that Paul accentuates.

“Goodness” is the same word Paul uses in Galatians 5:22-23 as one of the nine aspects of the fruit of the Spirit. When I first read Romans 15:14, I wondered why Paul would pick the fruit of goodness. Why not love, joy, peace, or any other fruit of the Spirit?

So, I explored goodness. The Old Testament highlights the basic confession that God is good because his love endures forever (1 Chronicles 16:34). It also emphasizes that our good God does good (Exodus 18:9). That is, he displays his goodness in active social relationships.

Further, I noted Christ’s statement that only God is good (Matthew 19:17). Then I noticed the equation of goodness and godliness with god-like-ness—with Christlikeness (Matthew 5:43-48; Ephesians 2:10; Colossians 1:10). In each of these passages, goodness displays itself in active, grace-oriented relationships, as when our good Father causes his sun to shine upon and his rain to fall on the righteous and the unrighteous.

William Hendriksen, in his commentary on Galatians, explains that goodness is a virtue that reveals itself in social relationships, in our various contacts and connections with others. Theologian Walter Gundmann demonstrates that biblical goodness always reveals itself in relational contexts through undeserved kindness.

So, in Romans 15:14, Paul is talking about Christlike character that relates with grace. Paul’s teaching us that the powerful minister is the person who relates well, who connects deeply, who is compassionate, and who has the ability to develop intimate, grace relationships.

*The powerful spiritual friend reflects the ultimate Spiritual Friend, Jesus.

*We are powerful to the degree that we love like Jesus.

In discussing goodness, Paul uses the modifier “full.” It pictures a net that breaks due to the stress and tension of too much weight and a cup that is so full that its contents spill over. Paul pictures mature love and godly character flowing through Christ to us, then spilling over from us into our spiritual friend’s life.

To the degree that you and I relate more and more like Jesus Christ, to the degree that we love like Jesus loves, to the degree that our relationships are as lovely as Christ’s were, to that degree we will be powerful spiritual friends. The person who is good at relating, is the person whose words and actions have powerful impact.

Do you love your struggling friend or family member? Do you long to help them effectively and powerfully? Then start by developing Christlike character. That’s where you power is. Become more like Christ so you can care like Christ.

The Rest of the Story

Is Paul implying that the best spiritual friend is the “touchy-feely” person who never dedicates himself or herself to serious study of the Scripture? Not at all. Join us next time as we explore the second qualification to be competent to counsel: biblical content.

Join the Conversation

The powerful spiritual friend reflects the ultimate Spiritual Friend—Jesus. What are you doing to become more like Christ so that you can care like Christ?

Note: Excerpted from Spiritual Friends.

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