Over the last couple of weeks I have been discussing Jesus’ relationships with those who are repentant. For instance, Jesus spoke with a woman who had five husbands, and another who was a sinner. Some of these individuals may make us uncomfortable today. Nonetheless, they were all willing to listen to the Lord and learn from Him.
With those situations in mind, I think it is helpful to consider a few passages that speak about teaching others gently and with humility. When we teach today, we may be tempted to just throw some Bible verses at someone without actually engaging our hearts and speaking with compassion. Then we wonder why they are not “getting it.” While God’s truth would still be conveyed by using that method, I seriously doubt it would be the best approach!
There is a big difference between talking to someone, and talking with someone. When we have a dialog with an individual, it involves mutual respect and consideration. Both people gain from the conversation.
The Bible is filled with passages that teach on how to converse with others. In the Book of Proverbs there is a great principle on how to provide answers to people.
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.Proverbs 15:1
When we share the truth, some may become angry with us. If someone responds to us with wrath, we must not respond in kind. We need to have the self control to be gentle and humble in our response. By modeling such a disposition, we can help diffuse most negative situations and speak to people in a calmer manner.
We may need to remind ourselves that we don’t teach such things because we enjoy making people mad or upset. Nor are we trying to simply “win” an argument! Instead, the goal is to share the Good News with all so that they can be in the presence of God forever in Heaven.
The Teachings of the Apostles
Turning to the New Testament, there are at least a couple of passages that address the concept of teaching others gently. The apostle Peter writes in his first letter, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts; and always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, with humility and fear: 16 having a good conscience; that, while you are spoken against as evildoers, they may be disappointed who curse your good way of life in Christ” (1 Pet. 3:15-16).
He encourages his readers, and us, to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in us. As it says, this is to be done with humility and fear. We cannot speak boastfully or with pride when giving an answer for our hope. Even though the apostle is writing about answering a specific type of question, the need for humility and fear is good for all sorts of answers.
As the passage continues, notice that he also talks about people speaking against us. Claims will be made that we do evil. If we are faithful to the Lord, such allegations will be false. In today’s social climate, some will say that our message of the Gospel is hate. Despite these disheartening words, we still need to respond to questions with a good conscience. Don’t fly off the handle at someone because he or she is speaking evil of you. We will all have to answer to God why we said certain things, including any idle words (Matt. 12:36-37).
Simon Peter isn’t the only apostle who discussed the proper way to answer questions. In one of Paul’s last letters he writes, “The Lord’s servant must not quarrel, but be gentle towards all, able to teach, patient, 25 in gentleness correcting those who oppose him: perhaps God may give them repentance leading to a full knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may recover themselves out of the devil’s snare, having been taken captive by him to his will” (2 Tim. 2:24-26).
This is a goldmine of advice. It gives us instruction on how to speak to the lost, and also presents a strong reminder of the right goals for such conversations.
The apostle Paul instructs us to be gentle toward all. Not just Christians, or those with whom we are comfortable. We are to be gentle to those who are in Christ, and those who are outside. Being able to teach with patience and gentleness is necessary. With the mention of being patient, we don’t need to rush when we are teaching someone. So long as a person is receptive to the Word, we can continue teaching him or her. Remember, we are the Lord’s servant. When we teach, we are serving according to the Master’s will. We have been bought with a price, and our time and labor is not our own.
This includes patience even when it is hard to continue in such teaching. The purpose of this is to correct those who stand against the saints. By gently persisting in answering questions and controversies, we can help change the minds of our hearers. Through the Word of God, they can have a full knowledge of the truth. Not just part of it, but all of it. As is taught in 2 Timothy 2:26, the intent of such instruction is the recovery sinners out of the snare of the devil.
We must not forget that! May we indeed show people the way of God and the pathway of light and peace through Jesus Christ. Hope and pray that all of us have a changed heart, and be added to the body of Christ!
Consideration of the Master
Speaking of Jesus, there is a well known passage that gives us a bit more encouragement to speak gently. It comes from Matthew 11. Now, this text is loved by many for its invitation to take on the yoke and burden of Christ, and to have rest for one’s soul. Such uses are right and good. In this instance, I want to consider a different part of the passage. The text reads as follows,
Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.Matthew 11:28-30
What I want us to dwell on is the phrase, “learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.” What is the state of our hearts when we are teaching people? Are we restless and anxious?
Or is our heart gentle and humble?
We may pray, “Oh Father, please open the heart of this person to desire your word. Help this one to seek your will in all things. Please guide me so that I can teach your truth accurately.”
Is that our attitude? I hope so!
Jesus wants us to learn from Him, and we know that He is gentle and humble. I hope that we have the same heart when we teach as well. Not to win an argument, but rather to help someone gain a greater knowledge of the truth and to obey in due time. May we do so with gentleness.
There is a big difference between talking to someone, and talking with someone. When we have a dialog with an individual, it involves mutual respect and consideration. Both people gain from the conversation.Tweet