Question: How do you apply the biblical counseling model with people who do not want to hear anything about the Bible or Jesus? Knowing what people need to hear is often very simple (e.g., God’s love, forgiveness of sins). Should we still speak biblical truth in these instances?

If the person you are speaking with simply doesn’t want to hear about the Bible or Jesus, then you can take several approaches, depending on the situation.

  • You can talk about biblical matters creatively. For example, “Will you commit to cleaning out your own garbage can before you rummage in your spouse’s garbage can? Are you willing to trust me to pay equal attention to both of you?”; adapt Matthew 7:1–5, looking to build a foundation for more explicit orientation to Scripture.
  • You can speak overtly about biblical matters even though the person doesn’t want to hear it. Biblical rationale: “Admonish the unruly”; “Rebuke a fool according to his folly lest he be wise in his own eyes.” Loving, constructive candor is a gift of God.
  • You can let your actions speak love. Biblical rationale: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him”; “… that he may be won without a word”; “be patient with them all.” The good is to let actions speak the message in order to win a hearing.
  • You can say nothing about Jesus or the Bible. Biblical rationale: “Don’t cast your pearls to the pigs”; “Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you.”; “as a sheep before its shearers is silent.” The reasoning is that there are situations in which good words will be wasted.

We have options in how we can interact and engage. Wisdom is needed. Think of how differently the conversations unfold when Paul speaks in Acts 13 (unpacking Bible, Bible, Bible), in Acts 14 (pointing out weather, crops, creational blessings, false ideas), and in Acts 17 (quoting their respected cultural authorities, their poets and philosophers; pointing out blind instincts after God and goodness). Again, wisdom is needed depending on the person you are talking to. But, bottom line, of course you can “counsel biblically” with those who are ignorant of or hostile to “The Bible.”

Finally, do check out the article by Alasdair Groves in the latest issue of the Journal of Biblical Counseling, “How Do You Counsel Non-Christians?”