Summary: Christ’s Style of Counseling
Christ’s Style of Counseling
Case Study - Recently, one of the students at our seminary asked me, "How should I counsel my Father who is about ready to take a second wife? He wants to have enough male children that he will be properly remembered and honored. My Mother is very upset about his plans, but she does not know what to do. She has asked me to talk to my Father about his unfaithful attitude, but I hesitate for fear that he will reject me. My brothers all look to me as the senior son, but I know that my father is very stubborn. Once my Father makes up his mind, no one seems to be able to dissuade him. My Father is at an age when he could not adequately support another wife, another child, or an additional extended family. Most of my brothers are afraid that the burden for providing the money, the school fees, and the extra resources will fall on our shoulders. They are pressuring me to talk my Father out of taking another wife. However, one of my brothers is afraid that our Father secretly made a deal with a rich Muslim Alhaji to take a second wife in order that he could receive a generous pay-off for his conversion to Islam. All of this leads us to believe that our Father is compromising his faith, his marriage, and his family responsibilities in a time of weakness. Please, sir, I am desperate to know what to do next?"
I asked the student, "What do you think Jesus would approach your Father?" The following is a distillation of the lessons that we learned together about counseling through Christ’s contextualized approach:
Any type of counseling requires a knowledge of the scriptures, but knowing the style of Jesus Christ’s counseling techniques requires further training. First, one must have a close personal relationship with Jesus Christ in a way that evidences a born-again experience through the fruits of Spirit. Trying to counsel without having the Spirit of God controlling your thinking is like trying to fly off a cliff without wings, it is contradictory to all the laws of the universe.
Second, a counselor needs to understand the attributes of Jesus Christ and exemplify them in your personal lifestyle. So many people are counseling others who do not really know who Jesus Christ is. Paul, the apostle, after years of ministry wrote to the Philippians, "I have counted all things as manure in comparison with the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and the power of His resurrection." (Phil. 3:10) It would be inconsistent for someone to counsel another when their own life is not worth emulating. Having a proper view of Christ’s power, wisdom, might, holiness, truth, justice, love, faithfulness, integrity, grace, compassion, and shepherdly qualities is essential to counseling. Study the attributes of Christ through His words, His works, and what other Biblical writers say about Him. Balance His attributes in a way that you do not overemphasize His justice over His mercy. Notice how in John 15:5-7 Jesus teaches us how to balance our passive and active elements of faith. Jesus said, "
"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, and thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given you."
Jesus wants us to exhibit a balance between our reactive and proactive counseling approaches. He realizes how important it is to know when to listen while patiently bearing the burdens of our counselees. However, the Lord also knows how important it is to give people exhortations to take responsibility to initiate changes in their attitudes and actions. Jesus knew how to help people harmonize their understanding of His sovereignty with His permissive will. Counseling through Christ’s approach frees people to live by the Spirit rather than by a set of rules. Jesus wants to give every counselee the capacity to let the Holy Spirit both will and do His good pleasure through their transformed minds. Many aspects of a proper Christology for counseling becomes essential in order to see life from His perspective. He wants to help us feel issues from His convictions and behave as He would in similar situations.
Thirdly, remember that acquiring the counseling techniques of Jesus involves your mind, will, and emotions. A counselor cannot simply counsel like Jesus in a cognitive manner. This would lead you to become so reliant on the intellectual aspects of Him that you would subtly diminish the spirit of Jesus and His behavioral skills (Not to mention His cultural contextualization facilities). Similarly a counselor would not want to emphasize Christ’s humanity as the expense of His divinity in counseling with people. This would put far too much weight on the human side of problems while forgetting the divine intervention of the Spirit of God in persuading people to grow up into all aspects of life. Contrastingly, some counselors too much emphasis on their own experience with Jesus insisting on a narrow range of methods. They lose sight of the fact that in Christ there is no partiality to any particular culture, gender, age, level of education, occupation, class, race, tribe, or language group. Giving people the ability to consult the Lord directly with their problems, emotions, and decisions through prayer and the study of His word supersedes all other styles of counseling. Try not to rely too much on the counseling process for your counseling focus. Christ’s counseling methods are used to bring people into greater intimacy with the Lord, His will, and His Spirit.