|And since he could not be persuaded, we ceased and said, "Let the will |
of the Lord be done"
Acts 18:4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.
2 Corinthians 5:11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.
Galatians 5:8 This persuasion is not from him who calls you.
PERSUA'DE, v.t. [L. persuadeo; per and suadeo, to urge or incite.] (Webster's 1828 dictionary)
1. To influence by argument, advice, intreaty or expostulation; to draw or incline the will to a determination by presenting motives to the mind.
2. To convince by argument, or reasons offered; or to convince by reasons suggested by reflection or deliberation, or by evidence presented in any manner to the mind.
Persuasion is neither good nor bad in itself, except for what a person is using to persuade another and to what they are being persuaded to. Some use truth or facts well presented to persuade. Christ in many ways, spoke to Israel and to the crowds to persuade them to see the very truth they were told by the prophets of the Old Testament. He spoke clear truth to persuade them of their own salvation through Him. Many who preach the Gospel use good teaching methods to teach the truth of the Word to try to clearly make it understood and persuade others to come to that salvation that is by grace alone in Christ alone. Yet the enemy is hard at work to pervert that same Gospel and persuade others to turn away from it. He uses manipulation, to twist that truth to persuade against it, or to pervert it somehow so its power is nullified.
We must be careful when we seek to persuade others of God's truth. Many well-meaning believers who love God with all their hearts have tried to manipulate, in their flesh, thinking they were doing God's will, and doing it because of their love for God, but misunderstanding His Word, His will, and His purpose.
Peter is a good example.
(21) From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.
(22) And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you."
(23) But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man."
(10) Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant's name was Malchus.)
(11) So Jesus said to Peter, "Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?"
I read several definitions and arguments between the difference of persuasion and manipulation online. Many said the difference is in the motive. Persuasion is for the good of the other, but manipulation is for the benefit of oneself. I don't agree with that completely. I see many in Christian circles who have a motive of loving God and wanting to defend God's Word, but who can also be manipulative and controlling in the way they do it, thinking truly, like Peter, that they are doing God's will. At one time I very fervently tried to persuade people that they could lose their salvation, thinking I was defending God's Word of truth. I loved God and loved His Word and loved the truth. I was sure I was right because I studied it thoroughly. But I was wrong. Gradually God showed me through His Word, and deeper understanding of what it means to be "in Christ" and have "eternal" life in Him, that I had been wrong. Like Peter, I was going against His Word and purpose without realizing it.
I see manipulation as someone who is either convinced of something themselves or perhaps has selfish motives, and uses whatever tactics he/she can to control others thinking to persuade them, whether good intentions or evil. Christians operate in their own flesh to try to do the work of the Holy Spirit at times. They don't stop at a persuasive argument according to Scripture for the truth, but they must manipulate that person emotionally into accepting it. There are many ways to emotionally or spiritually control others. There are guilt methods, condemning them if they do not accept your argument, or making them feel like a lesser Christian if they disagree. There is emotional manipulation in social media... "unfriending" someone who does not go along with your manipulation, and going beyond that, putting them down in the eyes of others, slandering them , telling others if you listen to that person you aren't really walking with the Lord, or you are deceived, or in some way making them feel they just are not very spiritual unless they follow your persuasion. We must be careful in "contending for the faith" and "exposing false teaching" that we are not slandering a person's ministry and turning people away from true Biblical teaching that ministers to others for Christ. I've seen this happen, unfortunately because of one area of disagreement.
If we are to persuade others to follow the truth by the Spirit, we must give up our own manipulative tactics and controlling ways to persuade them. Most controlling people don't even know they are controlling. We must learn what our job is and what the job of the Holy Spirit is. Our job is to give the Word, in humility and love, realizing we can be wrong too in some area. Even if we are right, we must trust the Lord to lead us to give His truth in the right spirit, at the right time, and to leave it with Him to persuade the heart and mind as He works in the hearts of others. If we act out of our own fleshly passion instead of being led by the Spirit we turn more people away from the Word, instead of drawing them to it.
I've been under manipulating pastors who use many tactics to control their audience. I've been manipulated spiritually and emotionally. I've also been under teachers who persuade by opening up God's Word of truth, and by His Spirit, enlighten so that it is plain to see. Those who have been taught by God, know that it was only the Holy Spirit Who brought the truth to their hearts and opened it up to them to see. If we are not willing to give room for the Holy Spirit to work in hearts as we speak truth to them, but try to manipulate them instead into listening, then we are guilty of acting in our flesh like Peter. It's bad enough to destroy God's work in the heart of another by our manipulation when we are right, thereby perhaps hardening another's heart against the truth when we seek to persuade them of it, but it's even worse when we are actually wrong in our understanding of God's Word or His will or purpose and then manipulate others into following us.
I have two things I do now, if I sense I am being manipulated by another. If I feel I am sure and know I'm right in a particular teaching and have been taught by God, but another is just as sure and trying to manipulate my thinking on it, I take it before God and say, "Lord I believe You taught me this, but if I have more to learn, please show me. If I'm right please confirm Your Word to me, and if not, please open my blinded eyes to see more clearly." Pray it with sincerity. And then go to the Word itself, not just to your own arguments. Look at the Scriptures and arguments of the other in light of God's whole Word. Many arguments come out of Scripture taken out of context mixed with human reasoning.
If you cannot do that no matter how right or studied you think you are, you are trusting your own flesh. Sometimes it takes time for growth in a person's life, including your own, before you are even able to accept certain concepts.
(5) Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
(6) In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
(7) Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.
Pride keeps us from seeing our own blindness. Pride in our own intellect, or our own understanding of the Word, or in a favorite teacher. Being part of a group that makes us feel a family or belonging also keeps us blind. If you are made to feel loved and accepted in a certain group of persuasion or denomination or cult, it's almost impossible to even allow yourself to look at anything differently, as it would possibly mean you being cut off from this family of like-mindedness and the close bonds that are associated with it. This is how cults keep their members. The threat of being cut off or disfellowshipped is very strong.
This can happen on social media as well. Certain groups of like-mindedness group together, back each other up in their arguments and usually follow a leader. Many times they don't have their own local church to attend, but the Internet becomes a replacement of this. They really haven't learned "the body" of the Lord. They gang up with each other against others and use emotional attacks rather than sticking with Scriptural discussion. It's an unwritten rule that if you disagree with usually one or two who rule the persuasion in this group, you'll be bashed, and disfellowshipped from being a part of them. So you just go along with whatever they post without challenging whether or not you see differently in the Word. This is allowing yourself to be manipulated by flesh, rather than persuaded by the Word. If you go to the Word and the Lord shows you otherwise, you need to listen to that, not this person, yet not with a haughty spirit but in humility and grace and allow God to work. We can rise up with our own manipulation in the flesh right back also as we see differently and use attack tactics to try to win the argument. Sometimes we have to agree to disagree until the Lord brings more light to one or the other, love and bear with one another, pray for one another, and have a humble heart that is teachable, but not manipulatable. There's a difference.
There's a time to back out of an argument, when it becomes one sided and is no longer a discussion. If the other person is "convinced" and insists you agree, then you have to leave it and pray God will show you and them more clarification. If you can't do that you aren't relying on the Holy Spirit but your are trying to control. Manipulation is just having to control by human tactics.
I'm still learning, but I've gone through a long, long journey with learning to not allow myself to be manipulated and not to manipulate others myself. I've learned to see the same tactics over and over. It's one of the hardest areas I believe, for especially more mature Christians, and especially if you are passionate about certain teachings. Because they have walked with the Lord a long time, and learned much and studied much, they feel they have a full grasp on certain subjects, and they are blind to this area of their flesh and become prideful. Others see it and back away from them and they don't understand why. They see themselves as contending for the faith and just write those off who won't accept it as not seeing or accepting truth. But they don't see that others feel the manipulation and feel the flesh at work and are unable to receive anything from them.
I believe in our day especially, it is more and more important to learn the schemes of the enemy, the manipulation tactics in the world, and in the church, in the news, and in social media. The Bible tells us to be "sober-minded" and "watchful." We are to be alert to the tactics of the enemy. Yes, alert to the tactics of manipulation he even uses in us. Nobody loved his Lord more than Peter, yet satan tried to work through Peter against His Lord. If we're not careful he can do the same with any of us.
(1 Peter 5:5) Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."
(1 Peter 5:8) Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
(2 Corinthians 2:11) so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.
Satan is master of manipulation. He knows very well our weaknesses and our fleshly flaws and strongholds. He uses them. This is why we are to never give the enemy a foothold. Our own flesh, unsubmitted to the Lord, is the enemy's foothold.
Grant us true humility and grace and most of all, reliance truly on Your Spirit, dear Lord. May we grow in this grace more and more for Your glory, in Jesus name.