One Sunday after church, I was sitting in our living room in my recliner. One of the young men from church was with us that afternoon and all my effort was concentrated on not falling asleep. This young man — Antonio — was one of the leaders in the youth group. He was very active in street ministry and had been baptized in water. All of a sudden, he looked at me and said, “You’re very intimidating!”
I used to go to a café in town here to have a cup of expresso and read my Bible. I would sit at a table away from everyone else and read the Word. The owner’s daughter was working one morning. She was about 22 years old at that time and was sleeping with her boyfriend. While I was reading, she came up to my table and told me, “Every time you come in here there is such an incredible peace.”
What is going on here?
What do I know? If in that moment you had asked me, I would have told you that Antonio needed to be encouraged, that he needed to be recognized for what he was doing. However, the Spirit decided that afternoon to get serious with him. It turns out that Antonio was thinking about leaving his faith and his Lord and going back to the world. Antonio did not need encouragement nor my recognition. The Spirit knew that, I didn’t.
As far as the young woman in the café, I would have rebuked her and warned her about her eternal future if she did not change the way she was living. But the Spirit knows much more than I do. She later told me that she had been raped when she was 12 and every day she thought of suicide. The Spirit knew that she needed peace and He Himself gave it to her.
Wherever I go, I try to be very sensitive to the Spirit. But in order to be sensitive to Him, I need enough humility to know that I have no clue about what is going on around me spiritually. When I avoid judging by the outside and coming to my own conclusions, He can work through me.
Sometimes He tells me what I need to do. Other times, as in Antonio’s case and with the young woman in the café, I just see what He is doing and try not to mess it up. I have to openly recognize that I don’t have the slightest idea of what He is doing unless He reveals it to me.
When He was talking to the Samaritan woman, Jesus told her straight out that He was the Messiah.1 This was one of the very few times in the Gospels that He said that in so many words. He did not rebuke her, because she did not need rebuking. On another occasion, Peter, one of Jesus’ best, most intimate friends, did need a rebuke and he got one of the severest ones in the whole Bible.2
We need to be sensitive to the Spirit. The Pharisees had automatic responses for almost every possible situation. They had worked out a system where (to paraphrase Newton) every action received an equal and opposite reaction. This works in science. Working with people, we don’t need science, we need art, the art of the Spirit.
1- John 4:26 2- Matthew 16:23