What the Apostle Paul Can Teach Us About Relating to People in a Politically Divisive Season

I once encountered a man in the sweltering heat of Florida who claimed to operate in the deeper things of the Spirit. People were lambasted with whatever insight he thought he was receiving from the Lord.

Loud and overpowering, he wanted to ensure that everyone came into alignment with the minutia of his opinions. He wasn't interested in establishing a relationship; he was concerned with voicing his insight.

Sadly, as people attempt to operate in spiritual gifts, they often imagine no other way. Either they're disengaged or screaming at the top of their lungs. In one instance nothing is happening and in the next, they're insisting everyone should come into sync with their way of thinking.

There's got to be a better way.

As movers and shakers in New Testament encountered God, they weren't afraid to step forward with strength. Nevertheless, as they expressed what was received from God, they often took a more gracious posture. Rather than speaking rigidly, they gave people ample room to process what was being asserted.

They were convinced that what was residing in the heart of the listeners would enable them to verify what God was expressing. Shaping lives is always more than mere arguments and power plays.

I would like to briefly highlight three biblical examples of this approach:

1. It Seemed Good To The Holy Spirit And Us...
After the Day of Pentecost, the leaders in Jerusalem sent a vital message to the Gentile believers. They asserted, "For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to put on you no greater burden than these necessary things" (Acts 15:28). Rather than utilizing combative rhetoric, they merely noted that they were sharing precepts that "seemed good." Rather than using strong-armed tactics, the leaders elected to offer their insights graciously.

2. In My Opinion... I Think...
When the Apostle Paul was providing counsel about unmarried women in the Corinth, he declared, "But in my judgment she is happier if she so remains as she is. And I think that I have the Spirit of God" (1 Corinthians 7:40). Instead of leveraging his unique status, Paul framed his appeal from an entirely different perspective. He chose to characterize his insights as "opinions" and "thoughts." Rather than speaking down, he decided to speak up.

3. My Conscience And The Holy Spirit Confirm It...

In another Pauline example, he graciously declared to the Romans, "I am speaking the truth in Christ, I am not lying; my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 9:1). In this instance, Paul draws upon what's stirring in his conscience. Instead of taking a coercive stance, he is inviting his listeners to actively process what's being revealed.

When one has amazing encounters, it's natural to want to lord it over others. However, that seldom brings the best outcome (Matt. 20:25-26). As we advance into the greater realities of the Lord's purposes, a different approach must be embraced.

I think Paul understood this as he affirmed,"Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you to do that which is proper, yet for love's sake I rather appeal to you ... " (Philemon 1:8-9).

I understand the inexplicable stirring of the soul, but advancement will not come to those who are overly coercive. Give people room to respond to the Lord's marvelous decrees and watch what fantastic realities unfold.

J.D. King, author and director of the World Revival Network, also co-pastors at World Revival Church.

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