We have an ability that we may not be using effectively for Christ. In His Sermon on the Mount, He described it as salt and light (Matt. 5:13-16). We should be very concerned about our influence. The Lord’s work consists of influencing people in God’s direction (Col. 1:28). Influence comes down to a matter of communication, both verbal or non-verbal. This includes our online communication. Sometimes, we are guilty of neglecting principles of influence and communication. Here are three to consider.
First, we need to examine self before influencing others. The most significant change starts with self. The “inside out” approach in influencing others is best. Jesus illustrates the importance of self-examination with the story of a man with a beam in his eye trying to help a man with a splinter (Matt. 7:3-5). Paul wrote, “I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:27). In doing this, we must model the conduct we wish to encourage in others (Acts 20:34-35; 1 Cor. 11:1). We must always be an example (1 Tim. 4:12).
Second, we should try to understand where people are coming from and advise with compassion. It is true that in some cases we have to earn the right to be heard by showing ourselves to be genuinely concerned about the other person. We can often be sympathetic to the situations of others. To be able to be empathetic is more influential. We need to be able to understand the real needs people have. Often a grumpy disposition is less about who they are and more about what they are struggling with. This is not an excuse, but understanding it changes how we approach them. Just telling them to stop being grumpy won’t help. If we help them deal with what is making them grumpy, that gets to the source. Understanding needs to go before being understood (Phil. 2:4). Jesus, the Master Teacher, saw people with His perfect understanding and compassion (Matt. 9:36).
Lastly, a good example is not enough. We must communicate. Character and compassion are not enough to communicate the truth of the gospel, it takes words (Eph. 1:13; Acts 11:13-14; Rom. 10:17). The gospel is of no benefit if it is not made clear (Col. 4:3-4; Eph 6:19-20). We must strive to balance courage and consideration. We must be courteous as well as candid (Col. 4:5-6). We must communicate. We cannot afford to sacrifice clarity for courtesy. We must be what we ought to be and genuinely seek to understand others. We must “admonish/warn” and “teach” (Col. 1:28). We all have people in our circle of friends that only we can influence. We are their only link to the truth of the gospel. Are we using that influence for the sake of Christ or social and political issues?