“Don’t assume that what you believe is so powerful as to totally upend someone’s own personal beliefs and experiences. Sometimes the greatest act of persuasion you will ever accomplish is to persuade someone that it’s time to stop fighting all the time.” (Trey Gowdy) We live in a time when what divides us often receives more attention than what unites us. So many people are not open to altering the way they look at something or to considering a different perspective and then they can’t understand why they struggle to convince others to see things their way. Respect is a highly valuable yet frequently overlooked tool in building relationships, practicing persuasion and loving as Christ loved. There is a difference between power and influence. God is all-powerful yet He operates seeking to influence us rather than merely running roughshod over our ability to make choices. Indeed, God seems to highly respect our freedom to make choices even when those choices do us or others harm. “For you were called to freedom brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Gal. 5:13) Perhaps the path of respect is one we should more seriously consider. I know such a path will run the risk of sometimes making us look and feel weak. Paul has some experience in that area and wrote, “… for Christ’s sake I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10) I am not at a place of being able to claim Paul’s words as my own but I am traveling in that direction. If the goal is making a difference to God’s glory and being able to influence others effectively, then the Bible shows us a clear path. “… in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Phil. 2:3) “We ask you brothers to respect those who labor among you … esteem them very highly in love … be at peace among yourselves.” (I Thessalonians 5:12,13) “…always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15) This is how we raise the bar on our discipleship.
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