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Breaking Bones God’s Way

Let’s take a minute to talk about breaking bones. The idea of breaking bones actually comes from the book of Proverbs 25:15 which says, “With patience a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue will break a bone.” What a remarkable picture of the art of persuasion. The context is trying to persuade people who are in authority over us. The topic of persuading those in authority over us comes up because, in the past week, I have had some people respond to our video from last week about the nine marks of a pro-life church.

Included in those nine marks, obviously, is the role of the pastor to be teaching and preaching on the sanctity of human life and the preeminent moral crisis that’s represented in the Bible as the shedding of innocent blood and beginning to bring the good news of God’s grace in Christ to those who are suffering the guilt and the grief of abortion. They are also to call their flocks to rescue the innocent, one mother at a time.

My experience is that most pro-life activists who approach their pastor are frustrated that they don’t do more, they don’t say more, the church isn’t pro-life enough. My experience in interacting with pastors is that they really resent pro-lifers coming to them and making them always feel like they’re under attack. They feel like they are not saying or doing enough which makes them feel attacked and, in response, they raise their defenses and dismiss their attackers. This can cause pastors to become more resistant to pro-life activists and pro-life activists become more frustrated with pastors.

Nine marks was kind of an approach to attempt to neutralize all of that and say, “Look, if you are a pastor or you are an activist, these are nine things that a church can be doing that will promote a biblical, mature view of what it looks like to stand for life over a long period of time. We don’t have to pick sides here. We don’t have to make enemies. We just need to ask how we can grow and mature God’s people to know God’s will according to God’s word and do it in a way that leads to God being glorified.

I know that whenever anybody goes to somebody else who’s in authority over them, you’ve got two problems. You have to overcome their authority in a way that they will receive it and you have to provide them with some practical information that helps them see what you see and be drawn to what you’re doing to win them to your position. That is what Proverbs 25 is really all about. It says, “With patience a ruler may be persuaded and a soft tongue will break a bone.” It really is the great weapon of the Spirit that we approach those in authority over us with patience and a soft, humble, gentle, sweet, winsome attitude instead of going in and attacking people which simply doesn’t work.

I know this takes great patience because, over the years, I have endured some rather strange things from my own fellow pastors and clergy. I remember I was invited to actually preach at a church once in which an elder came up to me and said, “I’d like to welcome you to our church here, but I’m not happy that you’re here.” Can you imagine being told that as you walk into the church getting ready to preach that Sunday? But instead of taking it personally, I tried to use some patience and a soft answer, and I said, “Well, why don’t you come and see me after the service, and let’s see if what I share today is not something that you will find to be quite helpful to your people.” When I was done preaching, he came up to me, and he said, “Yes, that was remarkable.” In other words, he perceived that because I’m a pro-life speaker that I was going to go in there and harangue the people and be judgmental and all the other things that they were thinking it means to be pro-life. What I went in there to do was to teach the Word of God to the people of God in as winsome and persuasive a way as I can do on any other topic.

I went to another church that I got invited to preach in and one of the associate pastors came up to me before I was getting ready to preach and he said to me, “I just want you to know, John, that this is a church that believes in hope.” Where’s that coming from? And the point that he was making was he thought I was going to come in and bring a lot of condemnation to the church which is not really the way I operate. He was very defensive and I had already been invited to speak at the church.

If you are a pro-life activist and you are going to speak to your pastor or an elder and say, “Let’s do more” then you better really wrestle with Proverbs 25:15. Go in there with some patience and a gentle tongue. I would advise you to go in there with my nine marks. And say, “Here are some ways that churches are maturing in their stand for life and I’d like to help us develop any of these. How can I help you? Who can I work with? How can I serve the leaders of this church? Can I teach the four questions in a small group or a Sunday school class? Can I work with our young people to try to equip them to know how to make the case for life in a hostile secular culture?” In other words, there are some approaches that you can take with leaders that are more winsome than others.

Proverbs 25 tells us that if you are going to approach rulers, you better go in with patience, and you better go in with a soft tongue. Then you will walk away not being broken or crushed in spirit, but oftentimes leaving that person wide open to something that they were at once defensive about. That is my recommendation for all of us.

The Sanctity of Human Life Sunday is usually the third Sunday in January. It’s a time in which many churches address the Sanctity of Human Life. And this is probably a good time to start approaching leaders if you want them to consider doing something on that Sunday. Again, I would go to them, maybe send them the nine marks, have coffee with them, talk to them and offer your help with developing your church growth and maturation in their stand for life in winsome and powerful ways that save lives and defy the evil one. I hope this is helpful. Thanks.