From time to time folks will approach me with questions on how to take advice from others who begin with, “God laid this on my heart to share with you.” Of course, this can create a conundrum for the receiver of the advice if the receiver doesn’t agree with the advice given. This can be especially true if it is from a friend or respected figure in their life. What if the issue in question is a matter of opinion? If I go against this advice, am I going against God? Or, what if you are the one making the suggestions? Is prefacing our comments like this a good route to take? Perhaps the following can help us navigate these situations:
1) If you are the receiver, as un-defensively as you can, try to listen and hear what your friend is saying and then weigh it with what you know to be true in God’s Word. We need to humbly hold out the notion that we have something to be gained. If you gain insight, thank them for sharing with you.
2) That being said, we need to be circumspect in the way we approach these conversations. Unless an issue is plainly laid out in scripture we must be careful of making our words the words of God and thus unduly containing the conscience of a brother or sister. While God does nudge our hearts and consciences immediately, he speaks most clearly to us through his Word. If you find yourself on the receiving end of this kind of advice, you may have to respectfully encourage your friend to make their case through Scripture. If you are the one offering the suggestion, please do your best to make clear that what you are offering is not "Gospel truth", and affirm that you respect them whether they follow your suggestion or not.
3) There are always folks who will disagree with our choices (parenting, how we use our resources, etc…). As long as these are not moral issues you can politely agree to disagree. And then preach the gospel to yourselves. You are deeply loved by your heavenly Father and there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. Satan (who is, after all, the accuser of the brothers - see Rev. 12:10) uses these disagreements as leverage points to discourage us and to put our eyes on ourselves rather than on Christ, who is our righteousness. Remember, you are IN CHRIST, which means that your heavenly Father sees no distinction between you and Jesus!
Living in community can be messy, but it is a mess worth making. Let us strive hard to be good receivers and good givers of counsel.