(By Thor Knutstad)
Most of our patterns of relating are naturally very self-protective and actually quite manipulative. While distance or demand provides us a setting to be safe from the transparencies of vulnerability, contact and relating in conversation often only touches others to the degree that we get our own needs met. This is sad. Neither strategy is loving, but actually very self-serving.
Life’s disappointments and our deepest pains will almost always seem to occur in the context of some of our closest relationships. Our sinful strategies that try to control our relational world are very self-interested and very self-deceptive.
Maybe we need to repent of these manipulative styles of relating and move toward others with risky involvement and words that connect to their hearts? Do you fear this style of intimate relating? Do you crave closeness but avoid it to the measure that it serves you?
Though Jesus was careful not to entrust Himself to the Pharisees, He does pour Himself into the hearts of the apostles and sometimes even other disciples. There were emboldened moments of relating – yet there were many tender ones as well. My friend Karen is now 71 years old and is in ministry in the Rochester, NY region. About 10 years ago, this 60+ year old woman came to me (a young pastor of about 33) and asked to be my Philadelphia Biblical University (PCB, now Cairn University) masters level counseling intern. What business did this mature, godly woman have being my intern, but I am grateful for her ministry – to others, and even to me. She was a good learner, but a good teacher as well. She knew how to love people and how to encourage. She gently and confidently once said to me in response to how I had handled some situation at church, “Thor, you are like Jesus – you are without guile.” She then proceeded to tell me what she meant by that. Guile is a military term from the Old King James Version of Scripture that denotes one who strategizes and plans in a sly and cunning manner – like a military leader who in crafty preparation knows how to flank his enemy and set up the victory.
She was calling me to continue to deal with people and in their relationships (and mine) with a form of innocence – a reminder to never trade it for a shrewd plan or strategy that relies on a craft or skill that manipulates situations. This style of relating is vulnerable, but it cuts to the quick of the heart and often reaches the hearts of others. It touches people where they are, but it doesn’t pretend to have all of the answers. It listens and loves but doesn’t do so with a cunning agenda. It’s how Karen was – it’s who God has made her to be. This encouragement has stayed with me, and I have even passed it on a few times myself. If I have said it to you at some point, you are smiling right now. She blessed me and laid a foundation for my life, my relationships and my ministry.
While the Pharisees were self-righteous, self-absorbed and quite manipulative in tactic (hence, FULL OF GUILE), our sweet, loving Lord Jesus was the COMPLETE ANTITHESIS OF GUILE. His innocent, loving, merciful, gentle, unassuming ways reached into the hearts of His Most Beloved Relationships. Without guile, He healed and did miracles. Without guile, He spoke the Word of God – boldly and unapologetically. Without guile, He fulfilled His calling of His ministry and lived “on mission” with all whom He came into contact with daily. Without guile, He didn’t try to control or manipulate the outcome of those moments – He simply loved others well. Without guile, may WE repent of our maneuverings and the craft of relational control – instead, may WE turn toward our Jesus and replicate His love for others as an instrument of His heart.