Hard Conversations!

I believe tonight's question or topic spans well beyond just our children. I believe this topic challenges us all in different ways. If we love anybody, if we care about anybody, tonight's question is very relevant to us. It is relevant if we are surrounded by families, friends and co-workers! This topic is relevant because we're all surrounded by people who love us and we love them.

Because of this Love, we'll be faced, time and time again, with the daunting task of having to have "hard conversations" with people we love dearly. These conversations are never easy, in fact, they're often downright stressful and difficult, but they need to be spoken.
On a personal note, I don't like to initiate these "hard conversations" and I certainly don't like being on the receiving end of them either. Yet, because I help run a homeless shelter and I love the folks we work with, I find myself constantly having to have these "hard conversations"! I have quickly come to realize that if I don't, other people could get hurt or they could end up hurting themselves.

I want to start by telling you about one of these "hard conversations" I had about 6 years ago
, it was a big learning curve for me! Pierre is an older Puerto Rican friend of mine. At the time, he was homeless and used to stay with us at CCO. Pierre is a great guy. He was motivated, he volunteered, he was keeping his goals, he attended our bible studies and church services. People considered him the ideal client or resident. He'd always help us out in the most difficult situations. He'd always greet us with a smile. He seemed to be doing everything right and we noticed his dedication and hard work, so we ended up hiring him. We gave him a big chance!

Pierre did have a major health concern; he had sciatica, there were some days when he was in a lot of pain, and while he was staying with us, it was getting worse and more frequent. His doctor put him on some heavier medication. Pierre would occasionally go out to drink a pitcher of beer at a local steakhouse, but this new medication didn't gel too well with alcohol, so we started seeing some small side-affects. Unfortunately, instead of stopping or slowing down, Pierre went the other direction, he started drinking heavier stuff more often. He'd black out, he'd panic, he'd freak out, he'd have hallucinations, he'd have nightmares and he'd start things with other clients. This combination of gin and his medication filled him with some very intense paranoia. One day it got so bad, he ran around the shelter yelling "fire" and he actually pulled the fire alarm and tried to get everybody out. Another day he was convinced that gang-bangers were coming in to shoot up the whole place, terrifying the other residents. It was bad!

Pierre was hurting himself and his health was getting worse. His actions actually meant he was also putting others in harm's way. I had tried little conversations with Pierre, encouraging him to slow down, suggesting options, but his addictions were getting worse and he certainly wasn't stopping. The severity of his actions meant change needed to happen, he was quickly going down a destructive path. It was affecting his stay with us. It was affecting the work he was doing. It was time for a bigger conversation. It was time for a "hard conversation!"

When we see the damage and know we need to have an intense conversation with someone, it is not easy. I'd be foolish to say otherwise. The first thing I want to emphasize tonight is, We need to have courage, we need to pray before these hard conversations. It takes a lot of courage to confront someone you love, and who loves you. It takes a lot of courage to tell someone that change needs to happen. That is why it's also important to pray. It takes courage, because your relationship with that person will be affected forever; either for the better or for the worse!

It was time to confront Pierre. I prayed, I was nervous, I was sad, I took the courageous step I didn't want to take, so I took Pierre off to the side and told him that things weren't working out and that we needed a change of direction. I told him his addictions were destroying him, his paranoia was endangering others and that he needed to move on. It was a very hard conversation. It was intense! Pierre shed a lot of tears. He couldn't stay with us or work for us any more.

The second point I want to emphasize tonight is; we need to have the courage not only to confront our loved ones, but we also need to have the courage to tell our loved ones the truth! It is truth that will set us free. Truth from a loved one is a powerful thing. It can truly bring about change.

On that particular day, as a result of this very "hard conversation", things did change for the better. I got Pierre into "long-term treatment", where he overcame his addictions and got the help he needed. Today, he remains successfully housed and works part-time, he lives a healthier, alcohol free and more pain-free life.

This leads me to my third point. Confronting our loved ones, should always be done in Love and with compassion. When I confronted Pierre, I didn't run into his room and yell, "Pierre, you screwed up, you're fired, pack your bags and get lost!" No; I tried to do it with gentleness and compassion! I told him the truth, I told him that his time was up, but I also helped him get into a place that could truly help him. I told him we still loved him and we'd still be there for him. As a result, whenever I see him today, he thanks God and he thankful that I "put my foot down" and "made change happen".

These "hard conversations" are often needed. But I'll be honest with you, not everybody's story ends with success like Pierre's. Not everyone listens like Pierre did! Some people ignore the advice and do what they want to do. They keep traveling down the wrong road, making the wrong choices. Jesus also knew that very well. He had "hard conversations" with many people on many occasions, some listened intently and changed their ways, while others just walked away.

When Jesus spoke to the Pharisees, and repeatedly told them they were traveling down the wrong path, what did most of them do? They continued walking down that same path; ignoring the words of Jesus and bringing destruction into their own lives and to the lives of others.

Jesus also had "hard conversations" with his closest companions, his disciples. He had to redirect them back onto the right path. Jesus knew their ways were destructive and not godly at times, so He had to make sure they stayed focused on God, His Kingdom and His ways. These "words of confrontation" were a vital part in discipling and instructing these men.

Listen to these words from Matthew 16:22-23. Listen to the seriousness of this encounter Jesus had with Peter; He had just told his disciples that it was God's purpose for Him and the world, that He was about to suffer and die....

Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, "God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You." But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's." (Matthew 16:22-23 NASB)

These words are rough, they're harsh, I'm sure Peter was utterly embarrassed by this encounter. I'm sure he wanted to run away. Peter was trying to do right in rebuking Jesus, he was trying to have his own "hard conversation" with Jesus, but Peter had it very wrong. His words were destructive, so Jesus told him that his interests had nothing to do with God's, that he was being deceptive and a stumbling block to Him.

Jesus then went on to tell His disciples what it truly means to truly follow Him; how it means to pick up your cross and to follow Him! Jesus had the courage to confront Peter and tell him the truth, but He also did it with love and compassion. He wanted Peter to learn, He wanted Peter to grow and mature, He wanted him to be the faithful godly man and leader we see in the Book of Acts.

Throughout the Gospels, we know Jesus had plenty of "hard conversations" with Peter and the other disciples! Jesus wouldn't allow them to deviate too far from the path. He knew that He had to challenge their thinking and their ways. Peter and the other disciples constantly had to be redirected, refashioned and reworked! The hard words Jesus spoke, transformed Peter into a new man; the hard words Jesus spoke, also transformed James and John into godly men. These 3 guys didn't fade away, but because they listened, they became stronger and more courageous. Because these 3 men listened, we were able to witness them becoming the loving and compassionate leaders we witnessed in the new movement that the death and resurrection of Jesus sparked.

As I've repeated throughout this message, these "hard conversations" are not easy, they can be nerve-racking and extremely difficult, but we have to remember, when we embrace courage, embrace the truth and embrace love, these "hard conversations" have eternal value and can bring about eternal change in people's lives! They are eternally vital, they are eternally important.
Think of Pierre! Think of Peter!

A brief summary of why I wrote this: There's a ministry on the West-side of Chicago called Mission:USA; every Tuesday night they have a Church service called The BRIDGE. Their services are open to everybody, but especially those who find it hard to gel in their local congregations! Or to put into cruder terms; a lot of these men and women are ex-offenders, homeless and low-income folk who have felt ostracized and rejected by many churches, so their mission is to be a bridge between prison, the streets and the Church. The Bridge helps these wonderful men and women find churches that will welcome them with open arms.....
And isn't this exactly what the Gospel and the "Kingdom of God" is all about?

Every Tuesday night, The Bridge has a host team from a Church, who greet the guests and provide a meal. The guests anonymously submit questions about their "walk of faith", and staff from The Bridge pick out a relevant question. Meanwhile, they have invited 3 pastors from 3 different churches to come and give a 10 minute sermon each about this specific question or topic. In my humble opinion, this is a great concept and ministry, who's staff is very loving, compassionate and supportive to the "least of these".

This was a sermon preached on 8/12/14, in response to this question;Hard conversations with my kids

My son wants to stay with me, but it’s not possible, as I’m already staying with someone else, and he needs to find his own place. But how can I break it to him? How can I tell him without making things worse?

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