Discussing Spiritual Differences- Matthew 10:16-17, 22-23; 1 Samuel 8:7

Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues;
And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.

And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.

COMMENTARY

They will deliver you up to the councils, and ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake
But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another

Jesus did not mince words when he told his disciples what to expect when carrying his message into the world. And one of the points that he stressed in particular was that they were going to be rejected…a lot. Though the disciples would work miracles, though they would speak with power, though they would dedicate their lives to this work, though they would convince many of the truth, there would always remain those who would not accept their message.
Recall that even the master orator Paul, after he had borne a masterful testimony to King Agrippa, was only able to elicit a response of “almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.”

For they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me
But is it any wonder that the disciples would be rejected when their master was as well? Jesus was turned away from cities, disputed against in the synagogues, and given up to death by his own people. Was it just because he didn’t know the right words to say, because he fumbled in his delivery, because he wasn’t skilled enough in the preaching his own message.
No, of course not. He and his disciples faced rejection for the simple reason that people have their freedom of choice, and some just choose to reject the gospel message and that’s all there is to it. It doesn’t have to be that the one proselyting did anything wrong. They might have said exactly what they needed to, but the person hearing the message just didn’t want to receive it.
And that is an important truth for us to remember whenever we try to champion the right. I have known those who believe that if they can just find the right, magical words they will be able to unlock anybody’s heart and that simply isn’t true. No one has to accept what you to say. Anyone is able to turn you down, no matter how perfect your reasoning is. If you feel that you spoke with the words that were given you, that the point was made, that the truth was evident to any who would see, then you have done your part. Anything after that, acceptance or rejection, is out of your control. Whatever the outcome is, you must just accept it and move along.

Influence and Persuasion- 1 Kings 18:21, Matthew 26:41, Exodus 8:28,32

And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.

Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

And Pharaoh said, I will let you go, that ye may sacrifice to the Lord your God in the wilderness; only ye shall not go very far away: entreat for me.
And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go.

COMMENTARY

How long halt ye between two opinions?
And Pharaoh said, I will let you go…And Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not let the people go

The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak
We find multiple examples in the scriptures of people that are of two minds. The Israelites try to conflate two incompatible theologies into one. Pharaoh says he’ll let his slaves go, but his hard heart keeps holding on. The apostles want to stay up with their beloved master, but they’re just too tired to do so.
Clearly the strife between competing thoughts and desires is not only between different people, but also within us. We have different voices inside that want different things, and each side debates against the others.
The question of how to persuade and influence others is also a question of how to persuade and influence our own selves. The mystery of how to change the world for good is the same as the mystery of how to change ourselves. Indeed, coming into harmony with ourselves is a prerequisite before we can hope to bring harmony to those around us.

Influence and Persuasion- Contention

Before really diving into this matter of “good” and “bad” ways to influence and persuade others, I wanted to address the fact that words like “influence” and “persuade” feel like they are taking on a more negative definition of late.

When two people debate about their different desires or beliefs, they can easily find it a negative experience, where each has their feelings hurt and grows more divided from the other. Repeated experiences like these might start to make one feel that “influencing” and “persuading” are synonymous with “manipulating” and “coercing.” To proselyte starts to be seen as just forcing your opinions on others.

But while these conversations can turn negative, they really don’t have to. I am sure each of us can recall a situation where we had our minds changed, and it was done in a way that left us feeling edified and improved. We can have a conversation that is mutual, where each side contributes to a greater whole, and where truth is found in the intersection of core beliefs.

Or put another way, each of us has an ego, and when that communicates with another ego, only contention can occur. But also we each have an eternal spirit, and when that spirit feels directly spoken to by another eternal spirit, it awakens and remembers itself. Then we see the truth in what is being shared, and are convinced in a wholesome way.

And this is the sort of experience I want to pursue with this study. I want to understand what it is that makes those moments work, and how we can actively work for them in all of our interactions with each other.