'Posture' and 'Gestures'
What does Bible-shaped care for others look like? For some, it means being nice, sympathetic or providing a listening ear. For others, it means exhorting them with bible verses and telling them to pray. Although these things could be helpful the Bible provides a much richer and varied model of care for others.
One example is in:
1 Thessalonians 5:14
14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.
Paul comes to the end of a really great and encouraging letter to the church in Thessalonica. He exhorts the believers there to respond to different groups in different ways. Yet at the same time he calls them to have patience with all people. I think of it as the difference between posture and gesture. (The metaphor was adapted from Andy Crouch, Culture Making. He used it as a model for Christians to engage culture) Within the metaphor:
Posture refers to the constant position of the torso.
Gesture refers to the varied position/expression of the hands
Paul says ‘be patient with them all’. A Christian response to all people is to have a consistent posture of patience. Another basic biblical posture is love (1 Corinthians 13). Whether the person is an adulterer, a disobedient child or a person suffering abuse. Personal ministry shaped by the Bible will have a constant posture of loving patience towards the person.
Yet with the same posture of patience, Paul suggests three different gestures, three different ways of responding in patient love. They are ‘admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak'. Although we are to show patient love to all people, this does not mean it looks the same every time. To respond biblically might involve patient loving rebuke of an adulterer. It might involve patiently correcting a child. It might involve patiently providing practical help to someone suffering abuse. These are examples of different gestures with the same posture.
Rich and Biblical ministry
I am not suggesting, and I don’t think Paul is providing, a definitive list of responses. The point is that biblical ministry is not just a narrow set of 'Christian' responses. Wise biblical ministry will involve the same constant posture of patience and love. But the gesture might be different depending on person, the sin, the weaknesses, the context, the time of day etc. Biblical ministry will have an endless variety of responses flowing from deep interaction with the people we care for. It is about pursuing the wisest gesture based on the tiny details of each person and situation. In this sense, biblical counselling/discipleship is not a technique to master. It is improvised, Spirit-reliant, scripturally informed ministry that wisely seeks the good of every person.