‘Purposing Change’ Meditations: 22. Changing Perceptions
1 Tim 4:12b “set an example… in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”
If we’re able to be honest with ourselves we all have our ideas that we’ve formulated through the years, ideas, perceptions, observations, all of which go to build up what are often called our ‘world view’. For us as believers that view starts with the existence and reality of God and the possibility of Him interacting with us because of what Jesus did on the cross. But our not-yet-a-believer hasn’t yet got that same world view, they need persuading and there are various ways we can go about that.
The first, hinted at by Paul to Timothy might make us feel uncomfortable. This is not about us appearing good for our sake but that somehow our not-yet-believer will see something in us that bugs them, rankles them and makes them wonder. Paul had just told Timothy “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young,” (4:12a) implying, win them over by what they see in you. Now we can expand this to say, win over any one of these we are seeking to reach by the way we live.
But there needs to be a warning here: unless God shows them, they will still miss it. When Jesus taught, “you should be a light for other people. Live so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven,” (Mt 5:16) he was saying that others WILL be able to see him in you, so pray that it will be so, something that moves and challenges their hearts. This is what was behind what we considered about wives and husbands in studies 16 and 17.
But there is also something very practical that we can do and I will simply summarise it by saying, create a pleasant environment. I wonder how many relationships break up because one of other (or both) partners weren’t working to create a good environment at home, thinking of the other person particularly.
We considered Esther in an earlier study in respect of getting team support, but her example of softening up her husband’s heart is worth thinking about. She needs to get this somewhat capricious, fickle and unreliable king in a good mood before she makes a possibly difficult request of him. How does she do it? She invites him to a banquet that she lays on. She knows he likes eating – lots – and drinking – lots – and showing off – lots (Est 1:5-11) so she invites him to a feast, and then another one (Es 5:4,8). It’s a fun story because between banquets the Lord starts speaking with the king (Es 6) so at the second banquet he is ripe to receive her request to save her people and deal with Haman.
This is not being sneaky, just being nice. It’s what businessmen, politicians and diplomats do all the time, wine and dine those they wish to influence because they know that when you feel good, you are more open to suggestions. You will have to pray and think and decide how you can act in such a way that it blesses your loved one, prodigal, friend etc., so they will feel good. Seriously, I ask the question again from a different angle, when did we last purpose to bless our partner, friend etc., so that the feel really good? Isn’t such a thing an act of love? Yes, this will require wisdom but God is good at giving wisdom (Jas 1:5) because if you are not careful, you will just appear manipulative, but if what you do is a sign of a new expression of your love, friendship etc., something you want to introduce regularly into your relationship, you may completely change the whole atmosphere of that relationship and in such an atmosphere, heart sharing becomes much easier. I know I have changed more in my life by being loved than by being told off or instructed. It is true of all of us, so can we bring change through love?