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He was graduated from the finest four-star Christian college. The product of a distinguished evangelical church, he had a good personal grasp of the Scriptures. From a strong Christian family, he was a personable and handsome green shoot -- the whole nine yards!

Like many in his league, however, he was riding rather than building on his background. At seminary he was acceptable, certainly not outstanding. He suffered from a severe case of the blahs, turning in papers that would make better kindling than academic projects. He generally frittered away his time.

Toward the end of his four-year tour of divine duty, I had developed an excellent personal relationship and I called him into my office.

"Bill, I'm disappointed in you."

"Really, Prof, why?" His eyed widened and blinked.

"Well, I could be wrong but my evaluation of you is this: you are a ten-cylinder man operating on about three, and comparing yourself with others who have only two."

The atmosphere electrified. He flushed, stifled internal anger, and left. Apparently he felt he had been misunderstood and our friendship bond weakened. Upon reflection he cooled to thinking temperature. "Maybe Prof is right. Could it be that he's the only man who loves me enough to tell it like it is? He blew my cover."

In time our rapport was mended. Bill went on to become a military chaplain, serving with distinction and impact. One of the cherished letters in my file is from Bill, thanking me for caring enough to face him with my convictions. Counselors can often be cowards, not caring enough to confront. Probably the reason I was sensitive to Bill's problem is that I had walked the same street some years before.

Prior to graduation from Wheaton College, an administrator called me into his office and "read me the riot act." Every time I opened by mouth he told me to keep it shut. I, too, stormed out of his office, hotter than a hornet, only to reflect that he was really right. My conclusion: I finally met the first person in twenty-two years who loved me enough to look me in the eye and challenge me with my greatest problem -- an undisciplined tongue. In fact, in review I believe that flaw could have been fatal to my ministry. Another template had been furnished by the Spirit-controlled man who truly loved me, and who, like a good surgeon, was willing to hurt in order to heal.

Too often I have seen marriages go down the drain, relationships deteriorate to the point of destruction, people with glaring personal limitation go unchecked -- all because Christians who know precisely what is wrong will not love sufficiently to tackle the problem.

"I was afraid I would hurt their future," is one lame excuse. But that is exactly what happens.

My mind recalls the words of our Lord to Peter when he veered off course; it seems a harsh slash to the disciple who had a short time before confessed him as Lord. "Out of my sight, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." (Matthew 16:23) These words came for the lips of the One who loves with everlasting love.

A former pastor told me about his experience of sinking into an illicit sexual relationship. He said he felt like an exhausted swimmer battling alone in the pounding surf, unable to escape the strong undertow, about to go down for the last time. On shore he could see all the people of his church. Some were shaking their heads in weeping and despair; others were shouting and shaking their fists in anger and frustration. There were words of encouragement and gestures of good will. There they were, all lined up, watching and waiting for something to happen. Only one man stepped forward and risked everything to plunge into the water and help the victim to safety.

Am I willing to be that man?     

Howard & Jeanne Hendricks, Footprints,  Multnomah Press, 1981, pp. 40-42.

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