I discovered the pen of David Roper about 13 years ago while interning for a church in Atlanta. Each day the interns had to read a devotional thought from Roper’s book, A Burden Shared: Encouragement for Leaders. Each devotional takes about 2 minutes to read, but the thoughts are powerful, thoughtful, and yes, encouraging.
I frequently return to Roper when in need of a fresh, grounded, incisive voice. Today was one of those days. By divine guidance I landed on Roper’s devotional about changing minds. This is a difficult topic for me. It’s difficulty because, honestly, when people disagree with me or are resistant to needed changes to engage people with the gospel I secretly think them stupid, ill-informed, disingenuous, unthoughtful, power-hungry or ignorant. Of course, I never tell them that. And down deep I recognize that I’m wrong for thinking and feeling that way, yet, I oftentimes do feel that way.
Roper helps me recalibrate my instincts and behaviors in the face of trying to move individuals and the church forward. First quoting Paul and then expanding the thought, Roper writes…
“The Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will (2 Tim. 2.24-26).
“It’s a sin to bully people–to be combative and argumentative. Discussion and debate on the facts is one thing; assault is another. When we resort to coercion we’ve already lost our moral and rational force. The Puritans were right when they enunciated the principle of consent. Faith can never be foisted on another. Consent must be gained by gentle persuasion and reason rather than mandate. People are best charmed into compliance.
“So we should avoid what Paul calls ‘foolish and stupid arguments’ and always be ‘kind to everyone’–intelligent and relevant in our proclamation and nondefensive in our posture, gently instructing those who oppose, ‘in the hope that God will grant them repentance…that they may come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil who has taken them captive to do his will’ (2.24-26)
“Those who oppose are not the enemy but victims of the enemy, deceived and captured by him to do his will. They may be delivered, Paul insists, but only if we speak the truth in love.
“Truth alone is never enough. Without love it is mere dogma and it never touches the soul. And without truth, love becomes mere sentimentalism. Only truth delivered with lovingkindness has power to change another’s mind. Truth sounds good only when it’s spoken with courtesy.”
Good thoughts, David.