The dictionary describes diplomacy as "the conduct by government officials of negotiations and other relations between nations, or, tactful dealing with others." Tact is described as "skill in dealing with difficult or delicate situations." And Civility is described as "courtesy; politeness, or a polite action."
As a Christian, these few simple words offer much in their effectiveness pertaining to our spiritual outreach to the world. Sometimes we hear and see other Christians who engage in a rough and uncivil witness that they justify by saying, quite unabashedly, "I'm not here to make people comfortable, I'm here to show them the truth!" in a very unbalanced perception of themselves as a "prophet of old." As if their possessing the Truth makes it all right in their discourse to treat people like lowly dogs, beating people over the heads with their Bibles.
Some tend to slip into the mindset that we are the converting influence in an unbeliever's heart and not the Holy Spirit. Believing that a well-worded or forceful argument will convince an individual of their need for the Savior, instead of recognizing that only the Holy Spirit and the Word of God can finally convict the heart of the presence of sin, is wrong. If an individual can be bullied and argued into the Kingdom of Heaven, then their conversion is not genuine, thus they can be bullied and argued out. This guarantees failure on the Christians part because they are encroaching on an area only the Holy Spirit has any place being.
Yet let's look at some contrasts, concerning our eloquent representation of Jesus, that appears in the Bible.
The Apostle Paul recognized himself to be an ambassador of the Kingdom of Heaven (Ephesians 6:20), and again by saying "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ...." (II Corinthians 5:20). The ambassadors of the nations of the world are carefully chosen because of that very critical position in regard to the political interests of their respective country. As visitors in a foreign land, they are representatives of the their country and everything that entails. Could you imagine if an American ambassador, all full of himself, dealing with some antagonistic foreign country this nation had dealings with, would one day just up and marched into the leader's office and started making rough demands and pressing requirements? Relations with that country would very quickly deteriorate. True, in some cases the situations warrant it, but it is very rare except at the onset of a war condition. Regardless, we should be held to no less a high standard.
In light of this, who should be our primary model of a proper diplomatic style in our dealings with the world? Yes, Jesus. There is not one recorded account of Him dealing harshly and coarsely with an individual, outside of the religious leaders of the time. It was only them who He dealt with aggressively, due to their corruption, exploitation of the flock of God, and misleading the people—indeed, they were the foundational reason the Roman occupational force was in the land at that time. He continually presented the truths of God in a calm, yet strong and professional manner to the multitudes of ordinary people that pressed in to listen. He didn't beat or belabor them. He ministered to them, good, bad, or indifferent.
Next, what is the primary tool of a representative of the Kingdom of Heaven as they bring forth the Truth of the revealed Word of God? Outside of the written text, the tongue—the principal tool of a qualified emissary. Proverbs 15:23 says, "A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it!" Proverbs 10:20 says, "The tongue of the just is as choice silver: the heart of the wicked is little worth." Proverbs 12:18 says, "There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health." The Proverbs are brimming with choice lessons in the proper use of the tongue, for those who seek to polish their day to day oratory skills. Then of course there are the lessons of the tongue in James 3: 1-10 where the writer states concerning the tongue, "For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body."
Young and old in the Lord, as we daily walk with Him, many opportunities present themselves to reach out to people around us with the message of the Gospel. As we lay out the Truths of the Scriptures to a lost and seeking world, outside of the primary conviction of the Holy Spirit in the unbeliever's heart, our manner of speech and the way we present ourselves to the community will have a major impact on the hearers and how they perceive us—and how they perceive the Lord. True, the world is by and large hostile to the things of God, but in the midst of that unending conflict, people are still today giving their lives to Him, opening their hearts to the peace, comfort, and training of the Holy Spirit, and in the midst of this present darkness, seeing the Light of God's love for the very first time.
And that, because of a faithful, polished, eloquent, and professional representative and ambassador of Jesus Christ being used expressly for this purpose by His cunning Hand. Seek to be one of them!
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"Diplomacy, Tact, And Christian "Civility." © 1998-2000 Michael A. Baker
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