This week I seem to be on a pathway leading to somewhere; where, I don’t know.
Monday I felt led to write about building our belief system in something (hopefully God), and yesterday it was about telling people what our beliefs are without forcing it down their throat because, ultimately, it is between each one of us and God. So we have chosen what to believe, and we are open to telling others what we believe for their sakes, but respectfully remembering it is their choice.
I guess today the next thing to discuss is: what do we do when they don’t want to believe what we do? How do we live with this? How do we change their minds, for their sakes?
That’s an important point: it has to be for their sake, not for our pridefulness, that we talk to people. I know I am prideful- I confess it, I admit it, and I deserve to be (that last part is just a joke, really.) We need to put our own need to be believed and listened to behind us when we are talking about God because it is all about God and not about us; it is OK to present ourselves as an example of what we are talking about, but we shouldn’t be the main topic (especially not in our own minds.)
I have been “in charge” for a good part of my career, and now that I am approaching the age where social security is going to be more of an income producer than a salary reducer, I feel that even if I am not in charge, my experience is useful. As such, I will offer my advice now and then, especially when it is asked for.
BTW…your opinion may be of great intrinsic value, but it has no perceived value at all until someone asks for it.
What I have learned from being in management is that just because someone thinks they have a great idea, even if it is a great idea, it may not be appropriate to the situation. In many cases, the person offering the advice is not aware of all the factors, so even when what they offer is good it will not work because of things they are unaware of. Even so, often people will become upset or angry when they offer their advice and it is not taken. That is pridefulness, and actually disrespectful to the person who has to make the decision.
Yeshua said that we should always respect those in charge because God put them there. Even when the person in charge is a total jerk, and every good and appropriate piece of advice you give is ignored, it is that person’s responsibility to make the final decision. So, if you give really good advice and he or she ignores it, just wait. Sooner or later things that go around will come around, and sometimes God, in His infinite mercy, will actually let us see that happen.
Most of the time we don’t see it, but we can trust in the Lord that it will happen. Just like I talked about yesterday, everyone gets their comeuppance, good or bad.
This holds true when we give advice about salvation and talk about the Lord. We have formed our beliefs, and we have offered them to people to help that person come to the truth. After we have had our say, we wait to see if the seed of salvation is absorbed by good soil, or if it has no more effect than shouting into the wind.
Now comes the hard part- being totally ignored, maybe even having our beliefs insulted, and not being offended. We can be a little miffed if we are insulted, and if so, there is nothing wrong with gently saying, “I allow you to believe what you want to without insulting you, and if you can’t be as respectful to me as I have been to you, then I don’t want to talk to you anymore about this.” Let’s assume that we are talking with someone who is not insulting, just not accepting what we say as valid for them. It’s hard to see someone rush headlong into what we know, absolutely, is death and eternal suffering. It is much, much harder when it is someone we love or care about. But we have to hold firm; we have to respect their right to decide for themselves, and we have to show them in our compassionate reply that we are not Bible-thumpers who can only preach fire and brimstone. We need to say, gently, lovingly and painfully (without trying to lay some guilt trip on them) that we respect their right to choose, and we hope they don’t mind too much if we continue to pray for them.
I usually like to include in my discussion, somewhere, that I know why I believe what I do, but can they tell me why they believe what they do, and they cannot say it is because that’s what they’ve been told or “just because”- those are not acceptable reasons.
From years in the sales business I learned the best way to make someone change their mind is not to point out where they are wrong, but simply to get them to question themselves. People only believe half of what you tell them, but they believe 100% of what they say. When we ask the right questions, and they realize they don’t have a “real” answer, they start to doubt themselves. Questioning ourselves is the first step to coming to the truth. If what we believe stands up to our own cross-examination, we are standing on a solid foundation. If we can’t answer our own questions with certainty, then we need to re-evaluate what we believe.
It is hard to see those we love and care about walk headlong to destruction, smiling and joking all the way to the end of the cliff, along with all the other Lemmings. It hurts, and we just want to smack ’em upside their head…but we can’t. It won’t do any good to kick against the goads (as Yeshua said), or throw pearls before swine (He said that, too.) All we can do is make them question themselves, offer the answers we know are true, and let them decide what they will believe. Oh, I almost forgot- we need to show them what we are talking about by demonstrating it in our life. It’s one thing to talk the talk, but if we don’t walk the walk they will not see any reason to change. It has to be “Do as I say, and watch me do as I say” or it means nothing. No one will go to a restaurant you recommend if you say you would never eat there, right?
I think I have come to the place I didn’t know where I was heading to when I started writing this morning.
Here is my “A-B-C’s” for missionary work:
A– form your belief system;
B– share your beliefs and why you believe, respectfully understanding everyone has a right to make their own choice; and
C– humbly allow others to ignore you, but continue to pray for them and let them see your belief system at work in you.
I think that’s all we need; at least, it’s a good start. Don’t you think so?