Hey, remember that one time when your child/spouse/friend/coworker sinned against you, and you went to them to speak about the sin, and you spoke all the right, eloquent, exact, pointed, correcting words, and they immediately saw the error of their ways, dropped to their knees, and repented with tears? Hold on just a second! That didn’t happen to you? Me neither! I have to correct my children for the same thing over and over and over. Why don’t they get what I’m saying? Maybe I need to say it differently, with more force, with more gentleness, with more scripture, with less scripture. I just need to figure out the right combination of words, then they’ll get it!
Jen often has to correct me for sins we’ve already talked about many times. What is my problem? What is her problem? Is she not saying the right words? If I’m not getting it, she must be doing something wrong, right? Maybe she needs to raise her voice, lower her voice, scream, whisper, choose different words, simpler words.
What these situations reveal is that ultimately, we cannot change a person. As Zack Eswine says in his book Sensing Jesus:
Somewhere along the way, those of us gifted with words will receive a painful reminder that it is Jesus and not our explanations that can change a heart. Words aren’t strings. People aren’t puppets. Eloquent speech isn’t magic.
Zack is speaking to pastors, but the truth applies across the board. Only Jesus can change a person’s heart. We may have all the appropriate biblical ammunition, we may have carefully crafted arguments, we may have righteous anger, but none of these things can change a person. I can raise my voice, or slow down my words, as if I’m speaking to a foreigner, but none of these things will change my children. My words don’t have the power to change their hearts. Only Jesus can do that. Jen may have numerous real-life examples of my sin, and she may speak to me in the most gentle, humble way (which she often does). But those things can’t change me. Only Jesus can do that.
When tension arises in a relationship, we are immediately confronted with the fact that we are not Jesus. We can’t cause people to be convicted of their sins, no matter how eloquently or forcefully we speak. Only Jesus can convict a person of their sins. Only Jesus can change a person’s heart. When we run into a relational brick wall, we need to immediately run to Jesus and ask him to do the work that we can’t. He must change our children. He must work in our spouse. He must soften our coworkers.
Trying to do the work of Jesus is exhausting and frustrating. Trust me, I’ve tried many times and failed many times. We need to let Jesus do his work in his time.