Building Bridges in Teaching

A couple of weeks ago, we looked at the importance of how we say what we say. When teaching God’s truth, doing so patiently and in love are essential ingredients to our ministry, and we examined many scriptures that talk about the attitude we should possess when sharing God’s word with others. In II Corinthians 10:1, Paul approaches his readers in gentleness, calling them to his side. His message was not about winning an argument or chopping anyone up with the sword of the spirit. His approach was filled with kindness toward and care for his audience.

As emphasized before, this is not advocating changing the truth or watering down God’s message. It’s not about removing backbone or becoming soft. This is about being instant in and out of season, showing others how much we care so they care about what we know.

Examples of Caring Teaching

In Acts 18:24, we read of a man named Apollos who is eager to teach God’s word and good at it. However, his knowledge about baptism is incomplete, so Aquila and Priscilla took him to themselves, explaining the truth more accurately. How might we handle this differently today? We might approach him as a false teacher – possibly even confronting him publicly. Aquila and Priscilla demonstrate care and concern for Apollos in this passage. What if they had been more callous or venomous in their approach? Would Apollos have remained a teacher?

Acts 3 records Peter and John in the temple at Jerusalem healing a lame man. When the crowds gather, Peter and John de-emphasize their own power and turn the inquiry toward God. He establishes common ground with the assembly before progressing on to the story of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. He does not soften the message, but he takes and approach that is patient and caring.

Romans 9:1-5 records Paul’s pain in regards to those of the Jewish community who reject Christ. He goes as far as saying that he would remove himself from Christ for their souls’ sakes. Later, he acknowledges the zeal they have for God despite the differences he has with them. How patient are we willing to be? To what lengths are we willing to go to save a soul (as opposed to winning an argument)?

In Acts 17:16, Paul feels stirred to speak by the great number of idols around him. When he finally gets the chance, how does he speak? Is Paul derisive of these people for worshipping the powerless idols? No, instead he begins by establishing a common ground with them before adding to their knowledge. Again, he does not alter the message, but he handles himself in a way that opens avenues of discussion rather than closing them off.

When Jesus is resting by the well in John 4 engages a Samaritan woman in conversation, and she responds in an antagonistic manner at first. However, as they speak, her opinion of Him changes. Even when it is revealed that she is engaged in an immoral relationship, Jesus interacts with her kindly and compassionately. If He had reacted otherwise, how would she have responded to Him?

Our Application

Do we have pet peeves that we jump on around individuals – for example, misuse of terms like “witness,” “testimony,” “ministry,” “pastor,” etc. Do we jump down someone else’s throat because they misapply things that we might believe are self-evident? That’s not how Jesus and the apostles operated. In John 4:35, Jesus calls upon His disciples to look to the fields of opportunity. If we just lift up our eyes, we will see opportunities all around us, but we need to have love, care, and concern for the lost if we are to approach them properly. Someone who believes differently from us is not an enemy, and we have to learn to give a soft answer to those differences. We should be building bridges rather than walls.

lesson by Tim Smelser

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