What Did Jesus’ Counseling Look Like?
One of Jesus’ many names is “Wonderful Counselor.” He was not purely about comfort, nor was he purely about confrontation. His approach depended on the person and the situation at hand. Our approach, as preachers who are also Christian counselors, should be the same. We should always use prayer and good judgment in order to determine how to react to a specific person about a specific issue.
Sometimes counseling demands one to be confrontational. In other words, sometimes, in a healthy way, people need a person to be direct and aggressive about the way they should go. Other times people need someone just to listen and let them figure things out for themselves so that they can grow from the situation. The rest of this article will be focused on five different ways that Jesus addressed people while counseling them. Sometimes Jesus used all of these techniques, and sometimes He just used a small combination of them. However, with His divine wisdom, He always used these techniques to help the hurting people He came across on a daily basis in His ministry. Surely, as ministers of His work, preachers can and should use these Jesus-like techniques as well.
We must start with trust, lead by Spirit, think by prayer, and act by example. This is the only way to honestly help ourselves and others. It is of utmost importance that one who claims to believe that Christ is the answer to all gives all Christ-like answers.
Jesus listened. So many times we are weak. Human pride gets in the way. When someone is speaking to us we are too concerned with what we want to say as opposed to what the hurting person is trying to tell us. The hurting individual will surely wonder if we ever truly cared to begin with. Were we ever really listening?
When we listen, we are showing people that we really care. We are investing ourselves in them, and showing a genuine interest. We cannot know how to help someone if we do not know their problem. We cannot know someone’s hurt unless we understand them.
Jesus listened to the Samaritan woman’s story. He listened to Nicodemus’ questions concerning his spiritual life. He listened to Peter’s confession concerning Jesus’ sonship and authority. Jesus wanted to know where people were in their spiritual, emotional, and mental lives so that He could better relate to them and help them.
Jesus confronted people. So many times we are also guilty of conforming to what other people say. Whatever they say is truth for them. We don’t have the courage to correct wrong behavior and action. This is basically a postmodern way of looking at things. Post-modernism is a relativistic philosophy. Whatever the individual says is truth in their own minds is truth for them. Every matter of truth is subjective. There is no absolute and objective truth. While this sounds like “freedom” it is actually bondage. The only “truth” one is allowed to question is his own perceptions of what truth means to him. It is a breeding ground for political correctness, ignorance, and inconsistency. Interpretation, according to post-modernist, is interpreter dependent as opposed to information and author dependent. This is an extreme position away from the modernism outlook. In the religious world, one cannot know anything for sure.
While it is admirable and humble to have this kind of attitude, it is also dangerous. The fact of the matter is that there is an absolute truth. This absolute truth tells us certain things are right, certain things are wrong, and certain things must happen to correct us from our wrong. There is a standard.
If we ignore this, even for the sake of humility and compassion, we allow people to hurt us, others, themselves, and God because of their actions or improper knowledge. Jesus was not afraid to let people know that they were wrong about something or that something would happen that would be unpleasant. His objective care for the overall good was more important than momentary pain. He let the disciples know that they would all deny Him. They, of course, did not believe this was true, but it ended up happening. Even Peter dined Christ 3 times. This shows Christ’s power, forgiveness, and hurt. It also challenged them not to deny Him. Jesus was not afraid to be confrontational for the greater good.
Jesus asked questions. So many times Jesus would ask questions. He did this for several reasons. He did it to help them understand themselves better, to understand others better, and to understand God, through His word, in a better way. We understand how to treat ourselves and others by learning how God would have us treat them. We learn how He would have us treat ourselves and others by getting to know who God is. This is done by His words. The questions Jesus asked helped achieve this purpose.
Open-ended questions force us to think and reflect on the subject that is being asked about. Questions require a response. And open-ended questions require a thoughtful response. Asking “How, what, when” will get you more information as a counselor, and will give them more information about themselves, and hopefully God’s word. In Matthew 12 Jesus wants the Jews to answer if a sheep is more important than a human life. Matthew 15 He asked if inconsistency was okay. In Mark 12 He asked the question about the coin to show who the coin belongs to. John 21 Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him. He most likely did this 3 times to reflect the 3 times of denial. Peter knew that there was a point behind Jesus’ question, and that the point would help Him grow.
Jesus complimented people. We should always take the opportunity to be like the Son of Encouragement. We should be known by our zeal for uplifting and building up the people around us. One of the many ways we can do this is complimenting people. This reassures people of the things that they are good at, builds their self-esteem, and shows them the areas in which they have improved as a person in whatever way.
It would take a lot of courage and strength to come to a counselor or preacher about the personal problems in your life. If someone does come, we should compliment them because they honestly deserve it. Them being there for counseling shows that they they want to improve themselves, they trust others, and that the issue at hand is important enough to them and their family that they are willing to humble themselves in hopes that there will be growth and healing through the counseling. Jesus was good at encouraging people and complimenting them. We should conform to this image.
Jesus gave homework. Sometimes the homework was a small thing like reflecting on an Old Testament passage that He asked a question about. Sometimes He asked something larger like when He told the rich young ruler to leave his treasures for the poor and follow Him. Homework is challenging, whether great or small, because it requires us to change our routine and get out of our toxic complacency. We must change, even if it is a small way, when we do homework. Homework is basically exercises to help make us better people through conditioning and training.
By listening, complimenting, confronting, asking questions, and giving homework like Jesus did, we will see a major improvement in our Christian counseling. People will see Jesus in us, and that will convict them to hear us out and heed to our advice. Anyone can be a counselor if they are like Jesus, and any Christian should strive to be like Him (Rom. 8:29). Jesus lived His life and gave His life for a world that was hurting and wretched. He was compassionate and caring towards the world so much that He gave His life. The least we could do is love people the way He loved people. Counsel how He counseled. – Jesse
Suggested Reading Before This Article: Jesus and Counseling Part 1