A STRATEGY TO CHANGE THE WORLD: a reminder that may be helpful based on Christ’s teaching on LEV 19:17-18. Many of my dear friends have gotten frustrated when their words about what is going on have been rejected. I’ve had my share of rejection. Sometimes it’s amazing how we muddle thru life, & we just need to be tapped on the shoulder & have our attention redirected to the basics of success. We all know how other’s rub us the wrong way, how their unsolicited uncaring “constructive advice” can come across as criticism. Even if we have a feeling their advice may have good intentions, it can still feel like veiled criticism. We look at them pontificating & wonder if it makes them feel better to put someone down. However, before we bother to ask the other person for permission to give them feedback, we end up doing the same thing, & wonder why they are not responding positively to our truths about the world. What follows are some suggestions based on the teachings of Christ which I have actually seen work!! People resist change, yet Christ changed many lives all around him.
In c. 1490 B.C. the Almighty Creator lays down codes of behavior which are recorded in LEV 19. He says don’t steal or lie. Don’t defraud others. Don’t do injustice or treat people differently, but be fair to everyone. Don’t gossip or take a stand against the life of your neighbor. Don’t hate others. Then in the middle of this kind of wonderful advice it says, “You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him.” O.K. so sometimes we need to tell our neighbor the facts of life—what they call hard love—what the translators wrote as “rebuke”. Yeah, let them have it! Now directly after this, the Creator pulls our attention the other direction by saying don’t do acts of vengeance, and don’t hold grudges, “BUT you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am YHWH.” LEV 19:11-18. Christ quoted LEV 19:18 repeatedly & Christians have called it the golden rule.
If we apply the golden rule to rebuking, remember that we like our medicine to taste good, so rather than stuffing bad tasting medicine down the throats of others, let’s shape what we do to what will go down well. We get angry at ourselves, but we don’t give up on ourselves. Each of us can hate our own sin, yet still love ourself the sinner. We don’t give up on ourselves, but note how quickly people give up on others. So part of loving others is to have a desire for their best, a commitment to helping them, and an appreciation for them. If you owned a store you would be upset if someone changed the price tags on items, and yet we devalue (change the price tags on our brothers & sister) God’s people. We love a baby for itself, not for what it has done for us, or how much it will spend on us, or agree with us. The Holy Spirit works universally with no respect of persons, and He is not restricted to our prejudices, so it’s best if we can value others like their Creator values them.
When a person feels better, everything feels better. The better you feel about yourself, the better you feel about others. However, we need to remember that Christ said to love God & others, the fact is there was no third commandment to love yourself. Part of the problem in getting people to listen to us is our selfishness. The way to listen to others is to stop chattering, including chattering in your mind as they try to talk. Communication works best when it is two way. We can communicate by threats to change people by fear & force like the World does today. Yet history is full of cases where fear failed, & love was more successful.
Perhaps the best example in my life of how “criticism” failed was when I was visiting with a Palestinian pharmacist in Africa. We were enjoying each other’s company, until he verbally attacked the U.S. govt. Now, I have long been aware of the many shortcomings of our govt. What bothered me was that he’d never been to America, he’d only read anti-American news. My “knee-jerk” mental reaction was to feel like he had not earned the right to criticize America. I felt like, who gives you the right to talk? In a way my thinking was silly for the truth is the truth. But my thinking was quite a natural response. Often we have to earn the right to speak into someone’s life. You will notice that AFTER Christ showed enormous agape love to the woman caught in adultery, in fact he saved her life, he’d then earned the right to say, “Go & sin no more!” You don’t see Yahshua just walking up to people and saying that cold. After he had earned the right by deeply conveying love to people, then you see him offer advice. He was an intense listener, and listened to those who ordinarily didn’t get listened to. I have tried to earn the right to speak into other’s lives, and even then it helps to ask the other person for feedback, or to ask them if there is something I can do to help. If they don’t want advice, they will usually reject it. If I say, “I know how it should be done, let me show you”, I realize that most people will find that insulting. “Here this might help you”, works better. It always helps to remove the plank out of our own eyes first. Or maybe we can look in the mirror & say, “Glad I don’t look like that!”
When two people rub shoulders, eventually there will be some friction. “What’s wrong?” is much more helpful than “What’s wrong w/ you?” Of course until they are ready to talk & deal w/ it, they will usually just say “nothing’s wrong”. What is love? Honestly, 1 COR chapter 13 says it best, although I have met some people who don’t like what Paul wrote. Expectations have been described as resentments waiting to happen. I believe we need to give our expectations to God. The kind of love 1 COR 13 describes is unselfish love, which is great because it releases us from selfish self-serving expectations, so we can love people like the father of the prodigal son, and also like the good Samaritan. (I realize the mass media are scaring people away from helping others by warning them they will be liable if anything goes wrong.) To sum up, communicating w/ love frees the power of the Spirit to change hearts. Not everyone will listen, but my experience is that, of all the approaches, Christ’s works best.