Jesus sitting on bench counseling a young man

Commendation: The First Element Of How Jesus Would Do Christian Counseling

Four Roads into the Human Heart

Sometimes as Christian counselors we can find ourselves at a loss for what to say. And other times, we know exactly what I want to say, but the person doesn’t seem to want to listen. I know I’m not alone in this experience. What do we do when we can’t seem to break through? We ask ourselves, “How Would Jesus Do Christian Counseling?”

Let me offer a fourfold framework by which we can both listen and respond to others with Christlike wisdom. We see this framework in Christ’s own counseling — specifically as he counsels the churches in Revelation 2–3.

Counseling in Four Perspectives

The four elements of this framework are commendation, comfort, conviction, and challenge. This is not a formula for counseling. Though I will present these components in an order, there’s no strict progression. Each conversation may have a different combination of these four elements, or may focus on only one or two of the four. These four elements are not so much a pattern or a formula as a multifaceted perspective by which to view the counseling task.

That sort of flexibility is exactly what we see in Christ’s counsel to the churches. Two of the seven letters lack any words designed to convict (Smyrna and Philadelphia), and yet with other churches (Sardis and Laodicea), Christ leans hard on convicting language and nearly eliminates commendation. Why the variability? Because the particulars of the situations vary. It’s often when we as counselors become formulaic (relying too much on a specific method), or we try too hard to force one particular element (because we trust our own evaluation), that we find ourselves stuck. In other words, when we become slaves to our own comfort or pride rather than servants of Christ, our counseling becomes inefficient and stale.

1. Commendation

The first component of this framework is commendation. By commendation, I mean finding thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are in accord with scriptural wisdom and giving them attention. Quite honestly, commendation can be the most difficult of the elements with which to become competent. Often, we need to hunt through the muck and mire of obvious sin to find a small gem of Christlike behavior. Commendation also requires genuinely knowing the person in front of us in order that our words don’t come across as mere platitudes. Yet finding the praiseworthy in a situation can be key for both building confidence and bringing hope.

Jesus does this with the church of Ephesus when he says,

“I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.”

Revelation 2:2-3 NIV

Finding the praiseworthy in a situation can be key for both building confidence and bringing hope. Though Jesus will move on to tell the church what they need to correct, he takes a moment to commend them for what they have done well. Often, before others can hear constructive criticism, they need to know their situation isn’t hopeless, that they’ve been doing something — anything — right.


Portions of this posting are excerpts from an article by Josh Squires, found at

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