“Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (Col 4:5-6).
One of the balancing acts we perform as believers is speaking the truth with love, speaking the truth with grace, speaking the truth with a winsome voice. When our demeanor is angry, pushy, or condescending, our opportunity for influence is greatly diminished.
In our hyper-speed social media world, it is easy to fire off rants that demonize the other side on any issue of the day. But is that where our influence is most effective? For example, if 70% of non-church goers typically vote Democratic (2012 exit polls), does it really make sense to call out Democrats and the folks who voted for them as stupid? Does that draw the unchurched into your circle of influence? Is that speaking with a winsome voice?
I found during our parenting years that we have the greatest influence in the lives of our kids when we develop a relationship with them. Influence that lasts does not come from a tight focus on rules, exercise of authority, or stoic distance. It comes from connection.
It works the same in the world at large. We will have zero influence with people that we have made our enemies. In fact, it is important to remember that those we disagree with – specifically those outside of Christ – are not the real enemies. They are only prisoners of the true Enemy, as we once were. And we are more likely to draw them to Christ when we befriend, rather than alienate them.
I understand the angst we feel as we see a culture of hedonism wreak havoc on our public morals. I am convinced, as many of you are, that our family dysfunction, failing schools, and so many other social ills that are getting worse in this country are a direct connection to our abandoning religion in the public square. It is natural to want to find a forum to lash out at this insanity.
But just when we think our culture is the worst ever, we need to reflect on life for the first century believers, our brothers and sisters in the faith. They found themselves in a woefully evil society. But rather than calling out sinners for living into who they were, they offered something better to the lost around them. They offered something different. They appealed to their circle of influence to consider something new and life-changing. That something different is a someone – Jesus Christ.
Our ministry is not one of confrontation. Ours is a ministry of reconciliation, a ministry of rescue of those held captive by Satan. And our chance for rescue goes up when our conduct toward the lost is, in the example and teaching of the apostle Paul, gracious and winsome.