As Christians we should love others with fervency. This love leads us to pray and minister so that, our friends, neighbours, contacts, colleagues (in fact whoever) are changed so as to have their lives more pleasing to the LORD. This means we are continually making sure their lives are brought into the presence of God. We do that through prayer, but also through our speaking with them. One way that we so often fail in this area, is in seeking to initiate change through bringing the lives of others before ourselves and not before God. It goes something like this:-
- There is someone you care for.
- You spend a lot of time, energy and money, seeking to be of assistance to that person and in helping them.
- Their lives do not seem to change for the best.
- You plead with them to do something or change in a certain way by saying ” I have done so much for you. I gave up so much time for you and spent so much money on helping you. So you should now do what I want you to do.”
- As a result of the moral pressure you have brought upon them they decide to change their life.
What is wrong with this approach? It is deficient because they have responded to you and not to God. All change which is of eternal value happens only when people respond to God. So what we need to do is always to act so that people are brought before God. So we speak the Word of God to them (or of that which is in harmony with the Word of God) and we pray for them. We challenge them to change, not because of who we are or because of what we have done, but because there is a God in heaven who has given His Word and to whom they are accountable. Accordingly, we never pressurise people to act through moral blackmail, which comes in the form of “You owe me so much therefore you must change”
Obviously there are subtleties here, in the sense that parents according to God’s Word have a certain authority over their children as do elders over church members. However, the Word of God and God’s principles here are critical because children and church members in the aforementioned instances respond to their parents or elders on the basis of God’s truth not the personal engineering of those who have authority over them. Moreover, parents and church leaders should never seek to exact change on the basis of personal pressure, but on the basis that they bring the Word of God to bear in the situations of those over whom they have been given authority. In fact if those with authority over others seek to impose unbiblical ways on others then such ways should be rejected.
A final subtlety to mention here is that when we have given instruction or exhortation to people then it must be the Lord who works to achieve anything. If it is just left to what we have said then no lasting benefit will come. It is the coming of the Lord into someone’s life to use what has been said that brings change.