How Do I Share What I Believe? The Relationship Between Respect and Reach

by J Warner Wallace

I’ve investigated a number of murders over the years motivated by nothing more than an act of disrespect. The pursuit of power is one of three motivations driving criminal behavior, and it often manifests itself as a response to a simple act of insolence. When a gang member feels disrespected, for example, he may retaliate violently. As humans, all of us are repelled when we feel dishonored, insulted or belittled in some way, even if most of us won’t react as aggressively as gangsters. If you’re trying to persuade someone, it’s important to understand the relationship between respect and reach. The more we respect and honor the dignity of others, the more likely we’ll be able to reach them with an idea, concept or worldview.

Jesus reiterated the importance of respecting others in his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 5:43-47
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

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This simple but powerful teaching has impacted many who have hoped to change the world with a claim about truth. Gandhi was certainly familiar with the teaching of Jesus and employed this teaching in his own efforts to influence his culture:

“It is easy enough to be friendly to one’s friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion. The other is mere business.” – Gandhi

If you want to share what you believe about God, Jesus and the gift of salvation, begin by recognizing the relationship between respect and reach. Ask yourself the following questions about the people with whom you want to share:

Have I Shown Them Respect by Carefully Listening?
Have you ever found yourself in a conversation where you spent more time preparing for your next response than genuinely listening to the words of those you’re trying to reach? We’ve all been there, and it’s usually obvious to the person we’re engaging. When people don’t feel heard, they don’t feel respected. Lower the bar on some of your conversations. Sometimes the best thing you can do is respect someone enough to simply collect data about what they believe. This may not be the conversation where you even get the chance to express your own beliefs, and that’s okay. Love others enough to listen to what they have to say…

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