Have you ever felt kicked while you’re down, judged when you needed encouragement? As brothers and sisters in Christ, it is our responsibility to lift each other up and point each other toward our Savior, but what that looks like isn’t always obvious.
1 Thessalonians 5:14 lays out an interesting guideline by saying to “warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” If we treat someone who is one way as if they are another, we can cause more harm than good (something Christians are accused of fairly regularly). Someone who is lazy or stirring up our trouble needs to be confronted in truth and love. Someone who is disheartened needs to be reminded of the strength they have in Christ, not have their burdens carried for them. Someone who is weak and hurting needs our comfort and help, not a warning, a “cheer up,” or any version of “have faith,” “toughen up,” or “someone has it worse.”
Of course, all of that is easier said than done, but how can we tell which to do when? I believe we first need to remove the logs out of our own eyes to better see other peoples’ situations (Matt 7:3), we need to rely on the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth and the right words and actions (John 16:13), and—as the passage says—not jump to conclusions but be patient and listen to our beloved brothers and sisters so we understand them and their situation.