Chapter 13 "The Ministry of Reconciliation"
“Now all these things are from God,
who reconciled us to Himself through Christ,
and gave us the ministry of reconciliation . . .”
—2 Corinthians 5:18
Everyone knows someone who is presently in a “bad” marriage or marital crisis. When your friend or family member shares the details, you feel hopeless, helpless, and very angry with the “other person.” You pray for your friend or family member, you try to comfort them and offer some type of help, but what are you really supposed to do? Marital destruction is coming at us in epidemic proportions; what are we to do? Are we to help them? And if the answer is “yes,” then how are we to minister to the broken, the angry, and/or the hurting?
God gave us the ministry of reconciliation. God gave all of us (those who claim the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior) the ministry of reconciliation, as 2 Corinthians 5:18–19 states: “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the Word of reconciliation.”
There are many verses that we will study in this lesson that confirm that we are to help those who come to us, but we must be very careful to help them within the guidelines of Scripture. When Erin was in the midst of the destruction and collapse of our marriage, everyone, and I mean everyone, had advice. It didn’t take her long to find out that other people’s advice could potentially cause further damage.
She found that well-meaning family members, who certainly cared for her, our children, and even me, gave her advice, which she followed and which ultimately continued to destroy our marriage. It was when she got fed up with the consequences of following other people’s opinions (that they picked up from friends or shows like Oprah Winfrey) that she made up her mind to 1) not talk to others about our situation, and 2) make sure that what she was about to do lined up with God’s Word. These are two of the core principles that are the foundation of our ministry.
Yet, even when God called her into ministry, she has told others time and again that she would have tohonestly say she made too many mistakes as others came to her for help. It is one thing to seek the Lord for yourself, but an even bigger responsibility to help or guide another. It was early in her ministry when she made a commitment to every woman that she ministered to that she would only tell them what she has done or would do if faced with the same or a similar situation, and only if it lined up with Scripture.
Erin says that she counts it a privilege to have the opportunity in this chapter to share those mistakes with you, along with what the Lord has shown both of us, as we sought the Lord, which has brought much fruit during our ministry to those in marriage crises.
Many men and women who know about our ministry send their family and friends to us, and rightly so, but there are some people that only you will have contact with. Just as the pastor of your church is not the only one who is called to share the gospel to the lost, you, too, must be knowledgeable to lead others toward restoration.
We are ambassadors for Christ. Who do we work for when the Lord sends someone to us? We are ambassadors for Christ. “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20). An ambassador is defined as “a diplomatic official of the highest rank sent as its long-term representative to another.” We are to represent Christ in our dealings with this person whom the Lord has sent to us. This position is “long-term,” meaning that we are called to see that person through to the victory of their marriage. However, as I have learned, our position cannot stand in the way of their personal relationship with Jesus as their Savior, nor can we take the place of the Holy Spirit as we play “junior holy spirit,” since this will inevitably stand in their way of restoration.
So the good news is that you are not alone in your endeavor, nor will you go unaided. The not-so-good news for some of you is that it will mean relying more on the Holy Spirit for guidance rather than relying on yourself. You will need to know God’s principles rather than continuing to speak your thoughts and your ideas. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8–9).
To be effective in ministry, you will need to renew your mind with God’s Word, with His ideas, and with His principles. You will need to refrain from telling others “what your friend did” or “what you heard on a talk show.” Even some of the Christian books that you have read on marriage have probably filled your mind with ideas or techniques that will undoubtedly destroy their marriage rather than healing it. “He sent His Word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions” (Ps. 107:20). What the Lord is asking you to do, as His ambassador, is to represent Him, His teachings, and His principles, in the spirit of His love and compassion, using His Word.
Though Erin has been blessed to have “walked the walk,” having obtained a restored marriage, and has had over a decade of marriage crisis ministering, Erin says honestly that she has no earthly idea what to do when someone asks her for help for their failing or destroyed marriage. She has no idea how many times has she pleaded with the Lord to help her know what to do or not do and say or not say to a hurting and desperate woman.
Therefore, unless you, too, are totally dependent on the Holy Spirit in humility of mind, knowing that you are incapable of helping a person in marital crisis without His working through you, you will inevitably cause the person whom you are trying to help to stumble in the midst of the enemy’s attack in their life and marriage. In Luke 17:1–2, Jesus warned, “It is inevitable that stumbling blocks should come, but woe to him through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” So take heed to the counsel you offer or the sympathy you give when you are not in total and complete servanthood to the Lord.
A stumbling block to Me. Matthew 16:23 says, “But He [Jesus] turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.’” One of the greatest ways to destroy your friend or family member is to fail to understand the reason or reasons behind the marital destruction and/or to take sides in the matter. Let’s first talk about the reasons behind the destruction of every marriage.
What Caused the Marriage to Be Destroyed?
When you read the book How God Can and Will Restore Your Marriage (which, by the way, is required reading for this lesson), you will notice right away that it begins with comfort. That comfort is based on the fact that God has allowed this situation for their good, so that He can draw them closer to Him. And as an ambassador, you will need to help them find the way to—or the way back to—Him. It is not your place to take His place, but to point them to Him for comfort. For some this is a very hard thing to do. You may have been given the gift of mercy, but if this gift is not being controlled by the Holy Spirit, it can inadvertently injure those you are trying to help.
We are to comfort, but “with the comfort which we ourselves are comforted by God,” not apart from or instead of God. Second Corinthians 1:3–5 says it this way: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.”
So the first, main, and most important reason this trial has occurred is that the Lord wants to use this crisis as a means to draw the person to Him or back toHim. This must be in the forefront of your mind and this goal must take precedence in any and all contact with those who are seeking your help. It is not for you to become closer (though often this occurs) and it is not even for them to draw closer to their spouse (though this, too, usually occurs as they are transformed more into the Lord’s image), but it is for the sole purpose of gaining a deep and lasting relationship with the Lord through this painful, and often long, trial. If you miss this most important reason, you will get in the way of the Lord’s working. You may do all you can to try to “fix” the problems and to find solutions for them; however, you must resist this temptation and instead help them to seek the Lord for His solution, His comfort, and His guidance.
Destroyed for lack of knowledge. The second reason this trouble has occurred is found in Hosea 4:6. It says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Most of us entered marriage and stumble through marriage without knowing or understanding the principles of marriage. Therefore, we are destroyed for that lack of knowledge. To take this principle further, if we are unaware or lack the knowledge of what to do or what not to do when a crisis hits in marriage, then we will further damage the marriage.
For you to help someone else, you will need to know the principles yourself. Do you? Have you studied to show yourself “approved unto God, a workman that need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth”? (2 Tim. 2:15, KJV). Well then, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the Word of Truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). This manual, along with the Restore Your Marriage book, will help you. However, if you do use any other material, once again, be careful that it is founded on and not just quoting Scripture.
Many authors love to quote Scripture in order to “prove” their point; however, the principle must be founded on Scripture so that it will remain standing when the trials come against it. “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock” (Matt. 7:24–25).
The authors also must prove themselves by fruits. Whether you want to believe it or not, there are many false prophets in the world today. And many have a large following, perhaps including even you. Jesus warned us in Matthew 7:15–20, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.”
However, if you don’t know the Word yourself, you could easily be deceived. The more I know of the Word, the more I am able to discern error in authors. I have read some authors who have later gotten off track, but if I had not had a firm knowledge of the Word, I would have taken it as Truth. My all-time favorite authors use a lot of Scriptures. Learn to know the Word of God well enough to discern error in what you read and in what you believe. Then use the Word frequently when ministering to others. Why? Because . . .
“The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.
They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them Thy servant is warned;
In keeping them there is great reward.
Who can discern his errors?
Acquit me of hidden faults.
Also keep back Thy servant from presumptuous sins;
[Let this be your prayer]
Let them not rule over me; then I shall be blameless,
And I shall be acquitted of great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Ps. 19:7–14).
When you listen to something that has occurred between two individuals, it is only natural to take the side of the one from whom you have heard the story. However, Proverbs warns us, “The first to plead his case seems just, until another comes and examines him” (Prov. 18:17). Trust me, everything you hear is not all there is to the matter. In all the years of our ministry, we have never seen a one-sided situation even if it “appeared” that way in the beginning. Whether there is infidelity or abuse, alcohol or drugs on the wife’s side, we have never seen that the husband is innocent of fault, which ultimately helped to destroy the marriage.
At this point, it seems logical to go and listen to the other side of the story. Counselors do this by bringing in both parties to “fight” it out in their presence as they act as referee. This method we do not advise, and, to tell you the truth, we refuse to be a party to it. Erin once was put in this predicament when she was called to meet a woman who was in jail. When she arrived, the woman’s husband was there. This woman was in her glory as she erroneously assumed Erin would be there to judge who was right or wrong. Erin simply left. She did this on scriptural grounds. “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him” (John 3:17). If God didn’t send Jesus to judge the world, we’re sure He did not send us (or you) either!
Don’t allow yourself to get in the middle of a situation trying to judge who has done what. It is not what you or I have been called to do. Rather, we are to minister Truth and comfort as we seek the Lord to lead us. This leads me to one of the many lessons I have learned in the area of ministering.
- NEVER listen to anger, but comfort and listen to those who are expressing their pain and hurt.
When someone writes or I am called on to minister in my own church, I refuse to listen to anger or “venting,” as it is called today. It is not only futile to try to minister to someone in this state of emotion, but also it is catching! Proverbs 22:24–25 warns, “Do not associate with a man given to anger; or go with a hot-tempered man, lest you learn his ways, and find a snare for yourself.”
- NEVER listen to slander. We refuse to listen to what a spouse has done or is doing.
In addition to not listening to someone’s anger, I also refuse to hear much in the way of details, for several reasons: first, to save the person sharing the details from destruction. Psalm 101:5 warns, “Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy; no one who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart will I endure.” When we allow someone to go on and on sharing slanderous details about their spouse, we are setting them up for destruction. We have laid a net for their feet.
This is probably so hard for you to comprehend since this is the way most counseling sessions are conducted, and besides, we are curious and we love to hear the details. Isn’t that why even Christians watch all those terrible shows where each person is slandering his family and friends for the world to witness? It’s the stuff we are never to listen to for many reasons. Here are just a couple of them:
We shouldn’t listen because it is disgraceful even to speak of the things that are done by them in secret. Ephesians 5:7–13 says, “Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and Truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.” Therefore, do not be partakers with them when they attempt to tell you details of what has happened or is happening in their marriage.
We shouldn’t listen because it will separate you from the other party in the marriage. “A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates intimate friends” (Prov. 16:28). “He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates intimate friends” (Prov. 17:9). I cannot tell you how often Erin or I have heard, before we have had a chance to stop someone in our church, things about someone’s spouse who was one of our pastors, an elder, or a close friend of Erin’s and mine. Each and every time we both have had a really hard time looking at this friend of ours in the same way. We have trouble not thinking of that person in the negative light that their own spouse shared with us. And it seems that we always feel that our facial expression shows that “we know all about you!”
That’s why, when we pair men with men or women with women as ePartners in our ministry, we warn them about sharing details, for the very reasons stated above. However, there is an antidote for the feelings that will arise when ministering to a couple. If you are ever caught in this trap of the enemy, first stop the person who is trying to share, and secondly, be faithful to pray for their spouse. There is no better way of curing hateful feelings, which is what you get when you hear some of these reports, than to pray for your new enemy. Matthew 5:44–46 tells us, “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you [or someone you love] . . . For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same?”
You will do your friend or family member no good if you take up offenses against their spouse. Don’t allow the enemy to pull you in to do his dirty work and help that man tear down his own house! When you listen to details, you can’t help becoming bitter against the offender. “See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled” (Heb. 12:15). It was once said in a Bill Gothard seminar that God gives His grace only to the person in the midst of the evil, not the one who witnesses it or the one who later hears about the injustice. We must be very careful not to judge a situation even when we witness it. We are not capable of looking at the heart of either person, or the circumstances leading up to the event.
With all this in mind, then how can we help?
Listen to the hurts.
Comfort them in their pain.
Quiet their spirit and tongue.
Pray for and with them.
Encourage them to share their own shortcomings.
Point them to Truth from the Word, and introduce them to the principles from the Restore Your Marriage and Wise Man books.
Walk with them, side by side, toward restoration—first their restoration with God, then, as a result, their restoration with their spouse.
Listen to the hurts. “‘Comfort, O comfort My people,’ says your God” (Isa. 40:1). If God has ever comforted you in anything, then you are capable of comforting your friend or family member in anything that they are going through right now. For it is He “who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Cor. 1:4). That was part of why you went through what you went through, to have the compassion to comfort others who need to find the Lord in the midst of their pain. You don’t necessarily need to identify with the cause of their pain, but you can certainly identify with the agony of their pain.
Quiet their spirit and tongue. Once you have allowed them to share their hurt and pain (not their anger through venting), then quiet them with love. Isn’t this the way the Lord deals with you? Oh, the love of the Lord—knowing He cares for us! Tell them you love them and remind them (or tell them for the first time) that the Lord loves them. Once they have shared their hurts once, that is when to stop them. Don’t allow them to go round and round again stirring up more pain. Often on the second “go-round” it stirs up anger. It’s time for you to do the talking. So once you tell them that you love them, and that God loves them, then stop and pray for them (and for wisdom to guide them).
If you are physical with them, and not ministering over the telephone, make sure you hug them and/or put an arm on their shoulder. You know that they are feeling unloved and alone. Touch is a powerful tool for reaching out to the hurting and drawing them to their Savior. Jesus did a lot of touching, especially of those who felt unclean. If you are not a “touchy” person, then ask the Lord to enable you to be His ambassador and bless you with this ability.
When Erin began this ministry back in 1990, she was not a person who enjoyed hugging or touching people outside of her family; it was not the way she was brought up, nor was it her nature. Maybe this is you too. But God has a way of getting around the way we were brought up and giving us His nature. Not only has she had the privilege of hugging and holding those who were broken and even dirty or smelly, but also just recently she was given the “mantle” of a sisterly kiss. It happened quite unexpectedly when a very influential and well-known woman in our country hugged her, kissed her cheek, and told her she loved her.
Soon afterward, Erin met a brokenhearted woman at the altar who came down for prayer. She hugged her, kissed her, and told her that she loved her, all before she realized what she was doing! Whatever wall was up inside her—fear, self-consciousness, or lack of compassion—the kiss of this influential woman who was willing to embrace and love her was like Elijah’s mantle being thrown upon Elisha’s shoulders. We pray that the Lord would grant you, too, a precious mantle that cannot be worked up or made up, but instead is the very arms of the One for whom you and I are ambassadors—the King of kings!
I have put My words in your mouth. A man who has a call to be a “minister of reconciliation” must be a man of prayer. You must not just pray for the men you are ministering to, but also that the Lord will speak through you. How dangerous and arrogant to believe for one minute that we have any wisdom in ourselves. Even if we are well versed in our knowledge of the Bible as it relates to a marriage ministry, how do we really know what is going on behind the scenes in a man’s life?
Deuteronomy 18:18 says, “I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.”
“And I have put My words in your mouth, and have covered you with the shadow of My hand, to establish the heavens, to found the earth, and to say to Zion, ‘You are My people’” (Isa. 51:16).
“Then the Lord stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me, ‘Behold, I have put My words in your mouth’” (Jer. 1:9).
With a total and complete dependence on God for how and what we are to speak to the man in marriage troubles, we can allow God to speak through us; thus we are not on our own, but merely messengers of the One who sent us.
Pray with them. It may surprise you, but there are many men, even in the church, who are not comfortable praying out loud. Some don’t know how to pray at all. This is part of your ministry to teach others how to pray. However, if you are not a praying person then you will have trouble leading others. Make sure that when you pray with them you are careful not to be too flowery or too spiritual. This will cause them to feel that they will never be able to pray “good enough.”
We like to pray a short and simple prayer first, then stop and ask them to pray. If they hesitate, we encourage them by telling them that praying is just talking to God or the Lord; that is, it’s just like the way they have been talking to us. Most will hesitate for a time (some for a very long time) but we try to keep silent long enough to let them take that first step. Once they get going their heart opens up and they are on their way to a special and intimate walk with the Lord. Our favorite blessings come when we are able to encourage those who have never prayed before; these new believers will pray the kindest, most child-like prayers that often can bring us to tears.
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16).
Pray for them. So often we neglect to pray. We say we will pray for someone, but too often we completely forget. The best remedy is to right there, right then, pray for your friend, your family member, your coworker, or the man at church. There is nothing that touches another person’s heart more than to hear someone calling out to God or touching heaven on their behalf. When Erin is approached in the foyer of our church by someone asking her to pray for them or someone else, she has gotten into the habit of taking their hands and saying, “Let’s pray.” She doesn’t care who is around or what others think! (This is something that I am trying to incorporate too.)
Later, the Lord usually will bring a person to mind that you have said that you would pray for, but just in case, keep a little spiral-bound notebook (or your palm pilot) handy and jot down who you have promised to pray for so that you can add them to your prayer cards later.
We have not ceased to pray for you. Being “led” by the Spirit is wonderful when He faithfully puts a man on your heart to pray for, but we must be diligent and faithful to pray for him every day. Our family has 3x5 cards where we put the people’s names to pray for, for at least a month, so that we are faithful in our commitment to pray for others. Some people like to keep a prayer notebook. Whatever the method, make sure that you do not neglect to pray for those whom God sends to you.
“For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col. 1:9–12).
Walk in a Manner Worthy
The verse you just read in Colossians is a marvelous outline of how you can pray for each man God has sent to you. Let’s take a good, close look at this verse to glean some wonderful insights about what God wants to accomplish in his life as you gently guide him along his walk toward restoration.
To ask that you:
May be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding . . .
So that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God . . .
Strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience . . .
Joyouslygiving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col. 1:9-12).
It’s interesting that the first line, “may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,” contains the same components of building a house in Proverbs: “By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; and by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches” (Prov. 24:3–4).
Teaching Sound Doctrine
Clearly, you must encourage the man to whom you are ministering to begin to renew his mind in the ways and precepts of God. There would be no better way than to meet with him regularly and go through this series with him once he has gotten through the “crisis.” (This is what the Restore Your Marriage book is designed to do: get the marriage out of crisis.) If you are careful to make prayer and teaching your main goals for your meetings, this will eliminate so much slander, self-pity, debating, and/or controversy. Take charge of your get-togethers by initiating prayer and getting down to the ministry of teaching. You will see that there will be little time left for empty chatter, murmuring, complaining, and slandering.
“But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance…urge the young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us” (Titus 2:2, 6–8).
It is a big job to teach or encourage a man in all that we are called to, but now it’s as easy as inviting your friend to your house, fixing coffee, and reading the Wise Man book. Many men feel inadequate to lead a man to the Lord or to lead him to become a godly man; however, any man is capable of opening up his home and inviting another man to spend a couple of hours with him once a week. (For more knowledge about how to teach, see Lesson 16, “Men, Encourage the Younger Men.”)
If you are uncomfortable meeting with him alone (or you know he is uncomfortable meeting alone with you), then pray about getting a few of your friends or his friends together once a week. It can be planned around food, which always brings people out. Just use the book to do the lesson. Many men who lead a group find that it is so refreshing because they are not the “bad guy” or the “spiritual one” speaking the Truth. It’s our ministry that they can become angry with. And if they do become angry, remember to agree with them. Try to understand where they are coming from. Get on their side. This is scriptural and may be the only way to keep them coming back.
Matthew 5:25 (KJV) says, “Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.”
Proverbs 18:19 says, “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a castle.”
And finally, Proverbs 16:21 tells us, “The wise in heart will be called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.”
If you are “wise in heart,” you will be discerning. Usually the men who oppose the Truth are believers living in rebellion or are not true born-again believers at all. It takes the working of the Holy Spirit to help you discern whether to agree and be kind or to boldly state the Truth. Since you are on God’s mission, He will be faithful as long as you trust Him to guide you. Just be careful that you “do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Prov. 3:5).
However, we all make mistakes. It is unrealistic to believe that you will not do the wrong thing and rebuke when you should have agreed or vice versa. It’s what you do when you make a mistake that will reveal whether you have the character of a godly man, or if you are just going through the motions. “For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again . . .” (Prov. 24:16). At your earliest opportunity, go to him or call him and humble yourself by admitting your mistake. Don’t wait for the enemy to come in and use your arrogance to capture someone who is weak in spirit. Matthew 5:23 tells us how important it is: “If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”
Proverbs 28:13 warns us about the danger of covering up our mistakes and gives a promise to the one who is faithful to confess when he or she has made a mistake. “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.”
After you go to him privately, if there were others who witnessed your mistake, then it is proper to make sure you tell them as well. Since we learned the enormous blessing of “boasting about my weaknesses,” we actually try to find opportunities to tell others about our mistakes. “But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble’” (James 4:6). “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (2 Cor. 12:9).
The devil will work through our pride. Instead of encouraging us to share our faults and weaknesses, he will prompt us to share our “victories” with others who in turn will flatter us for a job “well done.” Proverbs 29:5 warns us, “A man who flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his steps.” We all love people to admire us; unfortunately, it is nothing but a trap. Therefore, when you share a victory with anyone, make sure that it is what the Lord has done! If you must boast, boast in Him! Second Corinthians 10:17 tells us, “But he who boasts, let him boast in the Lord.” We are merely the vessels that He has chosen. How can we, the piano, boast of the music that is being played when it is the Pianist, the Lord, who is the true Musician?
You must be utterly and completely dependent on the Lord for every move you make, for every step you take. As a leader and a teacher, you will be accountable for all those whom the Lord has given you. “Your leaders … keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account” (Heb. 13:17).
Reconciling the World to Himself
Let’s once again read our opening verse, 2 Corinthians 5:18–19: “ Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.”
Your main focus with your “ministry of reconciliation” must be to lead your friend or group of men to reconcile with the Lord. After a decade of ministering in marital crises, there is one thing that we are convinced of and that is that a marital problem is nothing more than a spiritual problem manifesting itself in a marriage. Therefore, our goal, yours and mine, as “ministers of reconciliation,” needs to be to get to the root of the problem: to look at the source of their destruction, which is their desperate need for a close and intimate relationship with the Lord. We begin by allowing God to work through us as He entreats the broken and desperate man to find Him in a new, deep, and wonderful way. “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20).
The word entreat means to “beg somebody repeatedly.” The verse goes on to say it a second time: “We beg you on behalf of Christ . . .” Though the man you are ministering to might think that it is his wife who needs to be reconciled to God, the truth is that He first wants him!
A man who is in a marital crisis will either be angry or broken. Sometimes you see both of these emotions, which often means that the anger is being broken but is not yet complete. After trying for years to help men and women in both categories, we have concluded that we will not minister to a man or woman who has not come to the place of brokenness, for three reasons:
There really is no point. No matter what we say, or how we share with them, even sharing our past hurts and becoming transparent about our own sins or shortcomings, they cannot hear us. Our words are not able to penetrate a heart of stone that shows itself through anger. “If anyone has an ear, let him hear” (Rev. 13:9). He simply is not interested in hearing what we are saying.
At this point they are simply attempting to get someone to hear their side and side with them. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires . . .” (2 Tim. 4:3).
If we take our time and effort to attempt to minister to the hardhearted man or woman who is angry at his or her spouse, angry at God for allowing this to happen, and now angry at us for trying to help in a way that he or she doesn’t want to be helped, then we will be worn out and not available to minister to the person who is broken and willing to be healed. “Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest” (John 4:35). There are plenty of hearts that are white for harvest; don’t make the mistake of trying to reap a soul before it is ripe.
Also, our rebuke or reproof will eventually result in a person becoming even angrier. Proverbs 29:1 warns us, “A man who hardens his neck after much reproof will suddenly be broken beyond remedy.” This is the same reason why we tell men not to continue to appeal to their wives—because it will inevitably result in a complete break in their relationship. The same goes for your relationship with your friend, family member, or coworker. God is the only one who can take a heart of stone and turn it to a heart of flesh. “And I shall give them one heart, and shall put a new spirit within them. And I shall take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh . . .” (Ezek. 11:19).
Schemes of the devil. “Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Eph. 6:11). A scheme is defined as “a secret and cunning plan, especially one designed to cause damage or harm; a systematic plan of action.” It is a scheme of the devil to make you feel you must do more (more talking, more persuading) to turn your friend around. No amount of talking will break him. That is the job for the Lord. He will allow a new turn of events, more of the situation to be revealed, or an even greater crisis in order to bring him to a place where he knows he needs God. Don’t get in His way.
More highly of himself. In addition, do not let the devil try to convince you that your call as a minister is more than it is. “For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith” (Rom. 12:3). We are the Lord’s ambassadors, nothing more and nothing less. It is ridiculous for a U.S. or other government ambassador to begin to act on his own behalf rather than on the behalf of the president or ruler of the country he represents.
An ambassador is the “go between” who uses his or her skill to reconcile two parties who are “at odds” with one another. “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20).
“And they have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ but there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14).
Superficial healing. Anytime we try to take the place of the great Physician or administer a healing balm apart from the Word of God, we will heal others superficially. It will “appear” as if they are healed, but deep down the cancer will still be growing. Jeremiah 8:22 asks us, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has not the health of the daughter of my people been restored?” There is a healing balm in the Word of God; there is a Physician, so why is the spiritual health of God’s people, the Christians, in such a devastating condition? Because we have turned to the philosophies of mankind, turned our focus to the mind of man, the psyche, rather than to his spirit. Though it is true that the psyche is the center of thought and behavior, and maybe even the soul of a man, it is the spirit that will remain. The spirit is the center of our existence and need for God and His Word, which feeds and heals our spirit.
Jesus “answered and said, ‘It is written, “man shall not live on bread alone, but on every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of God”’” (Matt. 4:4).
To omit or limit the Word of God from the man who is broken is to starve his soul from the nourishment that he is desperate for. And just like when a person is starving in body, the water or food is given slowly but consistently until they are able to feed themselves. First liquids, then later meat: “Like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the Word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Pet. 2:2).
His Word healed them. Psalm 107:20 says that “He sent His Word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.” You must use His Word when attempting to heal the hurting and brokenhearted. Nothing short of this will do. Nothing but the pure, unaltered Word of God will do. Don’t water it down; it must be given in its full strength to bring about the miraculous cures that only He is able to accomplish. This is why so many men write to us about the incredible transformation our restoration book (or another book of ours) has brought about in their lives. It is because all of our resources are mostly Scripture; it is healing them deep in their spirit, which is what is bringing about their transformation. When coupled with the By the Word of Their Testimony, it is a powerful double punch that rids them of the attacks of the evil one as it calms and soothes their souls.
A man forsaken and rejected needs love, understanding, and often our time. However, our goal must be, once again, to introduce or reintroduce him to the One who “will never leave him nor forsake him” (Heb. 13:5). We cannot always be there for him, nor should we try. If we cause him to become dependent on us, rather than on the Lord, we have done more damage than good.
When he truly finds the “lover of his soul,” he will need no other—not you and not his wife either, for “my God shall supply all [his] needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). When the “neediness” is gone from a man who was once “grieved in spirit,” his wife’s heart will be turned back to him: “You have removed my acquaintances far from me; You have made me an object of loathing to them” (Ps. 88:8). “The … heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes” (Prov. 21:1).
Not Counting Their Trespasses Against Them
“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him” (John 3:17).
“Do not judge lest you be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you” (Matt. 7:1–2).
“And do not judge and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned” (Luke 6:37).
With a ministry of reconciliation, you must be rid of all and every kind of judgment. You may have compassion for the man you are ministering to, but if you stop there and judge his wife, you have missed the purpose of your calling. It may be your job to listen to his hurts, but you must not pass judgment on either of them. Believe me, it is almost impossible to do. The only way for you to accomplish this is to have “the mind of Christ,” who was “moved with compassion.” Jesus saw beyond their sins, their tears, and their afflictions. Only through Him, as His Spirit abides in us, will we find and fulfill the great commission.
It is not our place to determine who is more in the wrong. Instead we are instructed to minister the Word of God in such a way as to lead the man to the One who can heal, transform, and restore him.
And finally, before concluding this chapter, let me share one note of caution. Make sure that you minister to men only. The only woman to whom you can safely minister must be blood-related: your daughter, your sister, or your mother. None of these should be “step,” either. The devil is very clever. I have seen men caught in adultery and unfaithfulness when they attempted to help a close friend or family member who was not blood-related. And don’t pride yourself that it would “never happen.” None of us are above anything. It is only by the grace of God that you (or Erin) have not succumbed to unfaithfulness, since apart from God we can do nothing!
In a situation when a woman approaches you, it is wise to send them to your wife or give them a woman’s Restore Your Marriage book. If they return to talk about it, then kindly, but firmly, send them to our ministry’s fellowship for support and encouragement. Or, if you know about another woman who is in a similar situation, encourage them to meet together as encouragement partners.
We are ambassadors of Him who sent us. We are the saving link between the man in distress and destruction. We pray “standing in the gap” so that God will find someone there. We are to reach out to them, bringing them to, or back to, their Savior. We are to nurture them in the ways and admonition of the Lord, teaching them what is good and right.
We are not to judge them or their wives. We are not to take the place of the One who sent us. We are not to heal them superficially by giving them philosophies of men or by watering down the Truth and power of His Word. We are not to attempt to minister to the man who is still angry and not broken, but leave room for God to finish the work He started.
It is a high calling to be an ambassador of Christ in the ministry of reconciliation. It is difficult and painful but so very rewarding. When you choose to be sent into the battlefields of marriage destruction, you will put yourself in the place of seeing miracles firsthand. It is a job we highly recommend.
“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,
‘Whom shall I send,
and who will go for Us?’
Then I said,
‘Here am I. Send me!’”
Personal commitment: To acknowledge and accept the ministry of reconciliation. “Based on what I have learned from God’s Word and from observing the epidemic of separation and divorce occurring in the world today, I commit and surrender my will to the Lord’s desire that I should be His ambassador. I will be faithful to offer hope through a tract or ‘Hope card’ and also be willing to invest my time to lead them to the One who can heal and restore.”