– by Daniel Henderson
Although I am not a professional counselor, I am involved in the translation and publication of Biblical counselling books into French. This opportunity has given me a chance to read and interact with many books and authors.
Probably the most insightful truth that I learned through my reading was found in Mike Emlet’s book, Crosstalk. If you have not read this book, I encourage you to get it.
Here is what I learned;
Michael Emlet encourages those who help people to approach them as “saints, sufferers, and sinners.” The order is intentional as it helps the counselor prioritize the work of God in the person’s life, and gives context to their sin.
Practically, each of the categories require a different helps from the counselor; either scriptural passages that remind a person of their identity in Christ, console them in the dark day of suffering, or confront them for their unrepentant sins.
Meeting someone as a saint
As “saints,” we need to be reminded of our relationship with God through Christ. Our identities are not bound up in what we do, who we know, what we have, or our skills and abilities. Our identity is found in Christ. During this time, it is import to acknowledge signs of God working in their life, even if it is small and seemingly insignificant. Even the desire to change without any apparent fruit is a sign of God at work in the life of the believer.
Meeting someone as sufferer
As “sufferers,” we need to be reminded of the fallen world we live in, and often we deal with the consequences from other’s actions. Contrary to what many people believe, suffering is not necessarily a sign that we have done something wrong, instead, it is often the mark of God’s people. “Scripture assumes that, since the fall, the people God has chosen are sufferers” (Crosstalk, 76).
When we meet someone as suffering, we learn that when people are cut they bleed, and real pain is experienced when we are sinned against.
Meeting people as sinners
As “sinners,” we need be reminded that we will continue to struggle against sin until the day Christ completes His work in us. After following the suggested order Saint, Sufferer, Sinner, we have acknowledged God is at work in their life, that they are dealing with the consequences of living in a fallen world, that when we meet them as sinner, we can sympathize that they have been sinned against, but that ultimately they sin because they are a sinner in need of Grace and that the situations they have experienced was just the situation that allowed the heart to reveal itself. Having acknowledged their suffering, they know that we care, and it makes the job of confronting sin much easier.
I have used these categories when I disciple and help people grow in Godliness in the Christian life. It has helped me have more compassion in the slow process of helping people change.