Do you believe that Christ can spiritually influence any person to change through your unconditional kindness and respect? God’s Word repeatedly promises that when we treat an opponent with consistent kindness and respect, we can have a positive impact on them. Note the positive relational effects God promises you in the following Bible verses if you remain proper in your responses.
- Proverbs 15:1 says that if you give a gentle answer to a person who is angry with you, then you will reduce their wrath.
- Proverbs 16:21 says that if you speak kind and sweet, then you will be more persuasive.
- Proverbs 15:2 says that if you possess wisdom, then your knowledge and advice will be easier to accept and more attractive to embrace.
- Proverbs 16:7 says that if you please God in the way you treat and relate with others, then even those who do not like you will be at peace with you.
There was a pastor who honked his horn in irritation at a slowpoke driver in the middle of rush hour traffic. However, his anger turned to penance as he passed the slowpoke realizing it was a man with whom he had been meeting to help him overcome impatience at home. Who are the people in your life at whom you are regularly tempted to honk? Maybe they consistently do things that annoy you or maybe they consistently honk at you — so you feel like honking back. Rather than obeying Christ’s Golden Rule, doing to others as we would have them do to us, we too often do to others as they do to us. This destroys all hope of relational influence and change. However, it is those very moments when you and I most need the biblical hope of relational influence that can rescue us from making a bad relationship worse!
Peter urges us to keep our responses gentle and behavior excellent with the hope that any who slander us might see our good deeds, be convicted and change (1Pet 2:12,15; 3:1-2; 3:14-16). The Bible never assures us that every person will change, but rather that every person will be influenced to change as we respond kindly and respectfully. Those who choose to believe the biblical hope of relational influence are motivated to be unconditionally kind and respectful in tough relational moments. Faith rescues them from living by sight. As a result, many of these eventually see reconciliation miraculously occur as God proves Himself faithful to His promises. Many relationships on the brink of separation or even divorce are restored!
For you to experience such success you too must begin with faith in the hope of spiritual influence and turn from trying to change the other person to changing your own response to the other person. When someone honks at you or you are slandered, do not honk back but remain kind. When you are neglected or taken for granted, do not wallow in self-pity or bitterness. You then will mirror Christ who loved you while you were an enemy and who won you by his great love (Rom 5:8; Rev 2:4). When the hope of spiritual influence rules your heart, you will begin having a tremendously positive impact on every relationship in your life. Each relationship will become as good as possible as far as it depends on you (Rom 12:18).
When a difficult relationship does not improve after protracted unconditional kindness, it is often necessary to add gentle biblical reproof (2Tim 2:24-26; Eph 4:15), and possibly the involvement of others (Mt 18:15-17). If this is your situation, I invite you to take a look at our course, Pursuing Unity in Conflict. These two additional steps of spiritual influence are covered in greater detail. Furthermore, if you are experiencing any form of violence, threats, or feelings of being abused, please seek out someone who can help you to respond biblically, objectively and safely. It is not God’s will for you to endure a difficult or violent relationship without biblical guidance (Heb 13:17).
If you truly believe in God’s promise of spiritual influence in a difficult relationship in your life, you will experience personal benefits regardless of whether you ever taste relational benefits. Romans 12:17-21 commands us to do good to our enemies in various ways, like giving them a drink when they are thirsty or food when they are hungry. Ultimately, the reason for responding to a bad relationship with such radical kindness is found in verse 21: Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good. The worst thing that could happen in a difficult relationship is that you compromise your highest values — like being kind and respectful. You only have two options in a difficult relationship — you either let evil overcome you and your continued growth in goodness, or you overcome evil by growing in goodness.
A husband once told me that every time he left my office he was filled with great hope, motivation and the closeness of Christ. But then he lamented, “When I get home my wife sucks the Jesus right out of me.” Do you ever feel this way? If so, remember your hope of relational influence is based on what you believe, not on what you experience. This is why you can only sustain sincere love by well-fed faith that God is at work through your kindness speaking to the other person (2 Cor 2:14-16; Heb 10:36). Many try apart from faith to do what faith alone can empower. Hear this well: “Without faith, it is impossible to please God” in a difficult relationship (Heb 11:6). Unconditional kindness and respect must feed on God’s promises. Many years ago I developed a study entitled, Becoming a Person of Influence When You Are a Person in Conflict. Faith comes by hearing the promises. This study is filled with over thirty promises on relational influence.
May you let your light shine more, not less, by remaining unconditionally respectful and kind in current relational difficulties, “that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Mt 5:16). May the God of all hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing in the promises of relational influence (Rom 15:13). We are here to help you abound in this hope.