Did you know something that can frustrate or comfort us about God is His ability to not only see, but also shepherd both sides of a situation? Whether you’re frustrated or comforted by that depends on which side you see yourself on.
God doesn’t have a conflict of interest when it comes to His people. Oh, how thankful I am for that! He doesn’t side with one party in His family. He doesn’t say, “I’m sorry, I represent your opponent in this. I can’t discuss this with you. And I certainly can’t help you with it.”
And frankly, anyone who takes that position when in a role to minister to and shepherd God’s people has my ire and hackles raised. I’m not talking about when you are one of the parties in question. I’m talking about when your role is a minister and shepherd.
Prayer ministers will get this opportunity. I can’t count how many times I’ve prayed with and ministered to both sides of a situation. I’ve even prayed with folks on the other side of my equation. People who I felt had wronged me. The Lord placed an opportunity at my door and invited me into something sacred. To sit with the abuser and the abused. The offender and the offended. The guilty and the not-guilty. The hurt friend and the hurt friend. The stubborn family member and the stubborn family member. The sinner and well…the sinner. The child of God and the child of God.
When He has invited me into that space, I don’t see it as a conflict of interest. Never have. I see it as sacred and a growth opportunity for me.
As a prayer minister, I am to listen to people, listen to God, follow God, try to see and share things from His perspective, and connect people to Jesus. And what an opportunity to grow in Christlikeness when He invites us to see both sides, minister to both sides, and see the Good Shepherd lead His people from all sides and all angles of a situation back to Him.
You see, He is at the center of His people. If I side with a side, I may not be siding with Him.
I used to think it was like being Switzerland. A neutral party. But, that’s not it at all. That implies no feeling, no opinion, no justice, no mercy. Just neutral.
But I do feel, I do have an opinion, I do want justice, and I really want mercy. It means I feel anger, grief, indignation, sorrow, and a hope for healing when someone is wronged. It also means I feel anger, grief, indignation, sorrow, and a hope for healing when someone has wronged.
I’m not talking about ministering to an outright wolf. We don’t sit with wolves. And I’ve been taught to use that discernment God’s given us to watch for wolves. But people we sit with in prayer ministry have themselves reached out for prayer. That is one of our rules. You can’t make an appointment for someone you think needs help. They have to make the call themselves (unless they are a child, of course). They have to want help. Someone who has done wrong, is repentant, and genuinely wants help is not a wolf. Even someone who has done wrong and wants help, but is not yet repentant, doesn’t see or own their own stuff, and is having trouble turning things around does not a wolf make. It is amazing what can block and hinder us and what can harden our hearts that God wants to see us set free from.
As we teach prayer ministry and disciple prayer ministers, this is something we need to look at. I’ve seen too many instances in churches and in ministry when a situation occurs, we take a side. We pick a corner and give the other corner instructions and demands for reconciliation. We tell them to go get some help.
We do need advocates in our lives. It is truly healing to know you have someone on your side who champions you, fights with you, and will stand up for you. And because there are so many of us in the Body, we can help someone and all the while refer another to another member of the Body. This is good.
But I don’t think knowing that we can refer and utilize the many members of the Body gives us permission to choose a side and not try to emulate Christ and see the other side from His perspective.
In prayer ministry, there may come a time when you are invited to apprentice with the Advocate who does not share His role in His people’s lives. There is no second Advocate or third Advocate you can reach out to when the opposing party has already retained the Chief Counsel. He is also your Chief Counsel. And He will give you every bit of His attention and resources, just as He does every other side of the equation. Oh, what cry of joy to know that for our own lives! When we royally mess up, and when we have been royally wronged. Either way, the Chief Counsel fights for you.
In having opportunities to sit with the Chief Counsel and watch Him minister to all sides of a situation, I have had the utmost privilege to learn His nature, His posture, His justice, His kindness, His love, and His forgiveness that I may not have otherwise known. And I have a sneaky suspicion He wants me to remember all of that the next time I’m in my own conflict, whichever side I find myself on.
Of course, follow His lead for what He’s asking you to do. But don’t dismiss the opportunity to love His people, and don’t confuse wayward sheep with wolves. The Shepherd is always doing something different in all of His sheep. He is working on all of us. We are all somewhat wayward. But we are His sheep, and He fights for all of His sheep. I want to rise to the occasion and know what it’s like to love and lead and minister like that.