"Never cut what you can untie." That is a quote from Joseph Joubert. Yeah, yeah, so it was at the top of my Franklin calendar pages. I don't even know who Joseph Joubert is. I think it caught my eye because it is so succinct. It stopped me in my tracks and made me think.
First, the literal cutting of a knot came to mind as I pictured a rope holding down boxes in a moving truck, or some such thing, and I thought, "Well, yeah, instead of wasting the rope, slow down, take the time to work on the knot, and enjoy the benefit of not having to buy a new rope later. Be frugal." But then, my applicatory juices surged (very rare) and I began to think about the quote on a relational level; a level Mr. Joubert probably intended.
I remember a quote from a wise friend of mine who once said, "Deal with the person not the office." In my particular context as a pastor, that means when you are struggling with a person, do not go the easy round-a-bout way and solve the external problem through avoidance of the issue, but get to the real issue for the sake of relationship.
For instance, when a committee chair is not acting in accordance with their office, don't jump to remove them from office, talk to them about their actions. The easy way out is through removal. The loving way toward reconciliation and relationship is through honest conversations, humility, forgiveness, and restoration. Untying the knot rather than cutting the rope.
This is the way of true ministry. If I were Jesus, and Peter had denied my need for dying on the cross, or had lopped off the centurion's ear, or had denied the Lord of Glory three times, I would have said, "That's it! You don't get it. Your ministry is over." But Jesus patiently, kindly, restored Peter helping him to see His deep-rooted need for Christ's death to atone for his sin and His resurrection to bring him new life. That's the powerful motivation that moved Peter to preach at Pentecost, carry the gospel to Gentiles, and to be martyred for the gospel.
Oh! that I would learn quickly to untie the knot.
By the way, I Googled Joseph Joubert and found out he was an eighteenth century French moralist. A knot left tied?