Dear Ministry Friends,
I had three different roommates when
I was in college twenty-something years ago, and one of them brought
a book back to our apartment titled, How to Influence
People Through Fear and Intimidation. It was all
about how to be mean and hateful to people. The theory was that
if a boss could make his employees afraid of physical harm and
emotional rejection, then the boss could control the behavior
of the employees.
This was a very short-sighted book,
full of the "wisdom" of Satan and not the wisdom of
God. While it is true that people will sometimes obey a person
out of fear for a little while, they will usually be looking for
another place to work, or looking for a chance to retaliate emotionally
or physically. We have all heard of work-place shootings. And
I personally knew a department store manager who was very manipulative
through rejection that was hospitalized not long ago after being
beaten with a baseball bat in his store by the custodian.
When people sow rejection of others,
they eventually reap rejection in some way. Anyone who tries to
change people in ways outside of the principles of scripture is
in for unpleasant consequences in some way.
So how can we influence and change
other people around us using a scriptural method that we won't
regret? The clue to the answer is: how did God change us? We were
once self-willed, disobedient, and spiritually lost. Romans
5:8 says, "God demonstrated His love towards us
in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
John 4:19 says, "We love Him because He first loved
us." We changed got saved and began obeying
God because He loved us. His demonstration of love caused
us to make the biggest change of our lives.
This power of love is used very little
by many believers. They are often ignorant of how people respond
to real love. If a person only knows one human being that truly
cares for him or her, it is often enough to encourage and influence
that person's life powerfully in the right direction.
One reason that real, God-like love
is not practiced much is because it is not understood. The best
explanation of it is in 1st
Corinthians 13:4-8 (AMP). "Love endures long and
is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with
jealousy; is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself
haughtily. It is not conceited arrogant and inflated with
pride; it is not rude (unmannerly), and does not act unbecomingly.
Love [God's love in us] does not insist on its own rights or its
own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful
or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it
pays no attention to a suffered wrong. It does not rejoice at
injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth
prevail. Love bears up under anything and everything that comes,
is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are
fadeless under all circumstances and it endures everything [without
weakening]. Love never fails."
Many ministers recommend substituting
your own name in place of the word "love" and "it"
in that passage and reading it out loud to see how well it fits.
How well does that describe your life or mine? Frankly, I know
I have much room for improvement. However, I know that the more
our lives line up with God's definition of love, the more influence
you and I will have to permanently change people for the better.
How do I know we will have more influence?
Just look at the life of Jesus. He loved us so much He died for
us and therefore He has changed the people of every continent,
and He has even altered how we measure time! Millions of people
have even willingly died for Him.
As a contrast, consider those who
have tried to influence people through fear and intimidation.
For example, Adolph Hitler tried to rule through strong-arm tactics
and literally millions of people set out to kill him! What
an opposite outcome.
Love takes longer to "work"
and so some people give up on it and revert back to trying to
force others to change. However, if we genuinely care for people,
it will be a powerful influence in their lives whether
to get them saved, quit a sin, or just be a better person.
Another key to seeing love be a positive
influence in people's lives is to know what they interpret as
love. For example, what if you ordered your favorite meal at a
restaurant for someone else to eat they might not like
it! There are many ways to communicate love, and the expression
of love we prefer may not be another person's preference. There
are a couple of authors named Swihart and Chapman who have written
on these different "languages" of love. The five types
of love are:
1) encouraging words,
2) acts of service,
3) gift giving,
4) quality time, and
5) physical touch and closeness.
Each person has his or her own preferences
based on many factors.
A minister came to me one time and
said his teenager was rebelling. He was asking for prayer. The
Lord clearly gave me a word of knowledge and a word of wisdom
about the situation. The Lord said his son was rebelling because
the minister never spent any time with the son. The Lord impressed
me that the boy liked cars. God told me (you may not believe this)
to tell him to take his son to places he liked, for example the
local drag races. (It's not a sin to go to the local car races!)
When I told the minister that, he looked like I had hit him with
a baseball bat. Then, he got embarrassed and convicted, didn't
want to talk about it, and walked away! The minister was clearly
not showing love to his son in a way the boy appreciated (if he
was showing love at all in any way).
The Bible says in 1st
John 3:18, "My little children, let us not love
in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth."
This means we should not just tell people we love them, but actually
demonstrate it! I once said that God was from Missouri (the "show
me" state) because you have to show God your obedience. You
can't just "talk a good talk" to impress God, you have
to "walk a good walk." And 1st
John 4:8 says it even stronger, "He who does not
love does not know God, for God is love." People
want to see love demonstrated, not just hear empty rhetoric.
One reason people don't listen to
us more is because they haven't seen enough love in us. There
is an old saying that people don't care how much you know, until
they know how much you care! Sure, love has to be tough sometimes.
But we can still be loving even when being firm.
Everyone wants to be genuinely loved.
We were made that way. And if we genuinely love people, they will
usually respond to us.
That brings up another very important
issue that must be mentioned. Some people are so lazy, selfish,
deceived, or demonized that they will let you do all you want
for them and they just soak it up like a sponge wanting
more. The key to changing them is spiritual warfare. Spiritual
strongholds must be broken over their lives before they will change.
But you still need to be walking in love toward them. 1st
Cor 16:14 says, "Let all that you do be done with
love." And Ephesians
5:2 says, "Walk in love, as Christ also has loved
us and given Himself for us."
Spiritual warfare would take a whole
'nother newsletter to try to cover all the pertinent issues, but
let me say prayer can change things. In fact, Jesus said that
problems that had been there ever since childhood only went out
through "prayer and fasting" (Mark
9:29). There are many other tools and techniques of spiritual
warfare so much that I have two different 10 tape sets
on the topic. But love is the ingredient that we have to practice
all day, every day, the rest of our lives. So we really need to
focus on it. Let's pray for each other to love like God does.
Growing in love,
P.S. I have recently been
teaching on marriage and family on the radio. The challenges of
this new millennium remind us it is a time to focus on having
solid marriages and relationships. The issues of love and
prayer are important ingredients to achieve the goal.