Our dear brother Paul wrote some very clear, but encouraging words to the church at Colossae. He gives us direct instructions on how to influence those around us. You know, those things which are so basic we all go, “oh of course”, but then find it difficult to really put into practice? Those instructions that we want others to do for us, but maybe struggle to implement ourselves?
Live wisely among those who are not believers and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone. NLT Colossians 4:5-6.
Last night I had the privilege of listening to Eleah Tercero, an Assemblies of God missionary to Indonesia. She is a young woman who has been ministering to University Students for three years on the island of Java. As she was sharing, I could feel the respect she has for the young men and women that she has met. She shared stories of patient relationship building over coffee, dinner and English practice as they watch the Holy Spirit change lives.
How do we influence others? By respectful listening and then respectful speaking. This takes growing in self-control. Not easy. It starts by developing an others centered heart. It truly is not all about us. “If they respect me, then I will respect them”; not Biblical. As we develop Christ-like qualities, we learn to love the unlovely. Matthew 5:44 states: You have heard the law says; ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you. In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.
There are many layers to sharing Jesus with others, but I believe we must begin by respecting them, if for no other reason than our Heavenly Father created them. He loves them. When I pray for those I struggle to respect and love, God changes my heart. Do you have a family member that isn’t acting ‘right’? Pray for them, ask the Lord to do a work in your heart first. I admit it is hard, but it is doable with the Holy Spirit’s help. Do not keep focusing and rehearsing their offenses against you, but ask the Lord how He sees the person; you may find their splinter size problem, is being enlarged by the beam in your eye.
My friends, I encourage you today to think about your speech. Is it wholesome? Is it uplifting? Encouraging? Life-giving? Remember the words of life come from our heart. Guard your heart, feast on God’s truth and His love, and it will become easier to use respectful speech, even with those we disagree.