The point of persuasion: Blessings are real, as are curses
Peter Chao // February 3, 2020, 6:00 am
Present with integrity the option to choose Christ. Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash
As we continue to evolve into an even more globalised and commoditised world, we are overwhelmed with a plethora of choices.
For the health-conscious, the choice of organic foods is preferred to produce that has been traditionally grown and harvested. Carnivores can opt for meats from animals that have not been abused, crowded or chemically manipulated.
“Lifestyle” choices abound in every arena of our existence, and each option is held to be equally valid and valued. It would be politically incorrect to express our choices in absolute moral terms, but only as indications of preference.
If all choices offered in life have no differentiated consequences, how then do we witness in a meaningful and winsome way today? How do we point our friends and colleagues to Christ in the marketplace of ideas, lifestyles and directions?
One approach to fulfilling our Christian obligation is to present options and persuade decision.
On the verge of crossing into the Promised Land, Moses gathered the people and placed options before them: “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction … I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life …” (Deuteronomy 30:15, 19)
The choices we make in life are critical because they lead to different realities. Every decision bears its own consequence. How we choose can lead us either to blessings or curses, life or death.
If presented in a sensitive and respectful manner, Gospel truths would find responsive chords in people.
We need to ensure that spiritual options are on the dashboards of our consciousness. Since we are made in the image of God, spiritual considerations would resonate in our hearts. If presented in a sensitive and respectful manner, Gospel truths would find responsive chords in people.
Both cognitive and affective dimensions of God’s love appeal to our senses. Some of us need a rationale for our decisions. Others need to feel affective trust before they make a commitment.
Cognitive accuracy, while important in truth propositions, is not the normal tipping point for most people in making commitments. We can win an argument but alienate people from God.
There are few religious arguments that are conclusively irrefutable. Even if that were established, they would not necessarily lead to the surrender of our hearts to Christ.
Sense and sensibilities
People regularly make relational commitments against reason, better judgement and sound evidence. Frequently, their “against-all-odds” decisions turn out to be fulfilling and rewarding, making their lives worth the living.
In other words, people use a variety of criteria for making decisions that affect their well-being or quality of life.
We need to increase spiritual options from different approaches until God’s love makes sense to people. When that epiphany moment is realised, the consequential decision to follow Christ is the most natural response.
We need to increase spiritual options from different approaches until God’s love makes sense to people.
The urgency in persuading a decision arises from the serious consequences of our choices. We press gently but firmly that we have options to blessings or curses, life or death.
While even leaders in our pulpits and seminaries debate the nature of eternal death, the Gospel is Good News only because it is bad news outside the Cross of Christ.
“Curses” and “death” can be sensed empirically in the here and now as much as “blessings” and “eternal life”.
The intellectual gymnastics of the religious pundits in debating the plausibility of a good God sending bad people to hell do not dilute the reality of curses and death in our everyday experiences. People struggle with their existential realities despite the theoreticians’ denigration of their felt needs as shallow.
These conscious needs convince them that if they continued in their way of life, the end would only be an exacerbation of the present. The God-shaped vacuum in their lives longs for a different reality – one that is marked by blessings and life.
We raise options that are alternatives to present realities. We persuade a decision for Christ that will bring about an alternative reality.
Ultimately, a spiritual decision is a relational commitment.
The Gospel is Good News only because it is bad news outside the Cross of Christ.
We are not primarily urging the adoption of a creed, although the cognitive dimensions of faith insist on one. We are not persuading people to be members of a religious institution, although the journey of faith is in the context of a community and entails interaction with others.
The integrative thread of faith that weaves through the vicissitudes of life begins with a personal relationship with Christ.
Faith, then – like life – is holistic and involves all human dimensions. It is more than merely the cognitive, affective and physical.
Any aspect of human life and experience can serve as the entry point for faith. The spiritual journey demands and affects all dimensions of life. As the hymn writer Isaac Watts puts it,
Love so amazing, so divine;
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
To persuade so important a decision, we have to earn the right to be heard. The interpersonal dimension of persuasion is critical in any relational commitment.
We are usually persuaded to make decisions on matters of the heart only by people we trust or love. We certainly will not give in to the urgings of a salesperson who has vested interests in securing a transaction of our hearts.
The difference is between life and death, blessings and curses.
What right do we have to place options and persuade a decision of such magnitude and importance? If we have not earned the trust, we end up being salespeople at best, or mercenaries at worst.
The marketplace will be even more confusing as we have to choose from increasing options in more areas of our lives. Some options have eternal consequences and call for careful consideration. We need to raise those options and earn the right to persuade a decision for Christ.
The difference is between life and death, blessings and curses. As the apostle Paul puts it: “Since we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men.” (2 Corinthians 5:11)
We persuade people to choose life! We do so with integrity, as Paul describes: “We do not peddle the Word of God for profit. On the contrary … we speak with sincerity, like men (and women) sent from God.” (2 Corinthians 2:17)
This article is an excerpt from the book, Ponderings En Route (Singapore, Eagles Communications, 2018), and is republished with permission. The book is available for purchase at www.eagles.org.sg.
Reflection and Discussion
Ask yourself honestly if you are ready
- with your answer (1 Peter 3:15), if anyone asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you;
- to present the Gospel as and when the opportunities arise, with gentleness and respect.
Pray for eyes to see someone within your circle of interaction to whom you might be able to raise the option and persuade a decision for Christ.