Ten Principles From Scripture to Guide Engagement

“I can’t believe you just said that!” I look aghast at my screen. “Does she really believe that?”

“This can’t be happening again!”

My heart starts beating faster. I feel a mixture of anger, astonishment, disgust, disappointment, confusion, fear, exasperation, and superiority. I waffle between wanting to fight or to flee.

I can’t go on this way. How do I respond when social media, news, and typical conversation is fraught with fear-driven division? When I read a disturbing post, when a friend purports a conspiracy theory, when my least favorite politician wins, should I turn off all devices, quit reading the news, and only talk about the weather? I need some help to guide my engagement with others and regulate my internal thoughts and attitudes. Perhaps you do too.

Here are ten practical principles from Scripture (with reflection questions and a prayer) that I now use to guide my words, thoughts, attitudes, and actions as I engage on line and in person.

1. Listen First

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters! Let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.

James 1:19

Take a deep breath and count to ten. Wait before speaking, pause before posting. Listen well. Try to understand (this does not mean you must agree). Then ask clarifying questions (politely!) to learn rather than assume. Finally, release anger appropriately.

How can you become a better listener? How can you practice slowing down your responses?

Pray: Guide me, Holy Spirit, to pause and think before I speak. Teach me to be a better listener, and help me let go of anger when it rises in me.

2. Identify the Real Enemy

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.

Ephesians 6:12

We are in a battle with the devil and his angels, not each other. We fight against evil, not fellow humans made in the image of God. When we dehumanize another, it is easier to hate them or be cruel to them.

Who might you be treating as your enemy? How can you stop warring amongst yourselves?

Pray: Powerful Jesus, thank you for showing me the real enemy. Help me to not see others as enemies, but as creations bearing your image. Show me how to stand against evil in my corner of the world.

3. Discomfort Builds Character 

Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance, character, and character, hope.

Romans 5:3–4

Difficult experiences teach us patience which builds maturity which, in turn, strengthens our hope. So, get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

What discomfort are you currently experiencing? How can you let it build your character?

Pray: Heavenly Father, I erroneously expect you to give me a painless life. I arrogantly think I deserve a society that enables my comfort. Help me to step into uncomfortable places because of what it will produce in me.

4. Be Like Jesus

You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross!

Philippians 2:5–8

As Jesus did, we release our need to be right, first, or the best. We give up things we deserve to help another. We use our power to advance others and humbly serve our neighbor. This doesn’t mean we let people abuse or mistreat us but that we think of others and not only ourselves.

What rights and power do you need to release? How can you serve others like Jesus?

Pray: Jesus, it’s hard to be like you. Show me when I am selfishly clinging to something I need to give up. Help me use whatever power I have for others. 

5. Jesus Destroyed Hostility

For he [Christ] is our peace, the one who made both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility…and to reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by which the hostility has been killed…So then you are no longer foreigners and noncitizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household.

Ephesians 2:14, 16, 19

We can live in God’s diverse family with its many persuasions, beliefs, preferences, and ideologies because Jesus reconciled us to God and to each other. We view one another as fellow citizens and saints, not in categories of us and them (republican or democrat, ally or enemy, for me or against me).

What kind of walls might you be building that God has already destroyed? In what ways are you NOT living as a reconciled, unified member of Gods family?

Pray: Thank you, Jesus for reconciling us to God through your death and bringing us peace. Show me how to live united with fellow members of your family. 

6. We Are All Equal

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female—for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:28

Jesus removed all division (see #5) so one is greater or less than others in his family. Our family of origin, station in life, political persuasion, or gender aren’t barriers to fellowship. Racism, slavery, misogyny, and misandry are out!

To whom might you feel just a teensy bit superior? What steps can you take to adjust your attitude and actions toward them?

Pray: Jesus, thank you that in you we are all equal. Reveal in me any unrecognized bias, prejudice, or sense of superiority, and show me how to replace it with humility, love, and acceptance.

7. Treat Others Like You Want to Be Treated

Treat others in the same way that you would want them to treat you.

Luke 6:31

Jesus taught us to do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who hurt us. Lend without expecting to be repaid. Forgive others, and give to anyone who asks. Don’t judge, but instead accept and love one another. (Luke 6:27–42)

How do you want to be treated? How do you need to adjust the way you treat others?

Pray: Father God, show me how I am not applying the Golden Rule to my relationships. Help me love, accept, forgive, and bless others.

8. God Doesn’t Take Sides

When Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him holding a drawn sword. Joshua approached him and asked him, “Are you on our side or allied with our enemies?” He answered, “[Neither.] Truly I am the commander of the Lord’s army. Now I have arrived!”

Joshua 5:13-14

In other words, God doesn’t play favorites (Romans 2:11). He hasn’t lost, and he doesn’t back human agendas. Dr. Tony Evans says, “God didn’t come to take sides. He came to take over.” His followers owe him complete allegiance; anything less is idolatry.

To whom or what might you be giving your allegiance? How might you be playing favorites?

Pray: Thank you, Lord, that you are on your side, that you will fulfill your purposes despite your children and their actions. Show me where I show partiality, even unintentionally. 

9. The Spirit Brings Change

This is the Lord’s message to Zerubbabel: “Not by strength and not by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

Zechariah 4:6

Jesus didn’t take the world by force, and told his followers to put away their swords (Matthew 26:52). Instead he saved it through sacrifice and humility. Allowing the Holy Spirit to work through us effects change, not might and power.

How are you pursuing might and power? How can you let the Holy Spirit bring the change?

Pray: Holy Spirit, please bring change—in hearts and actions. Teach me to reject power and instead be led by you.

10. Love Is the Greatest

If I give away everything I own, and if I give over my body in order to boast, but do not have love, I receive no benefit.

1 Corinthians 13:3

Giving all (even dying) for Jesus is admirable. But if we aren’t loving, our efforts are worthless. After all, Jesus calls us to love one another in the same way that he loves us. (John 15:12–13; John 13:34)

Before you speak or act, ask How can I most express love?” Which of your good works might be a cover for lack of love?

Pray: Jesus, give me your love so that I can love others as you love me. Help me make love the motive behind all I do.

Eva has been teaching and mentoring women for over thirty-five years. Her experience as a missionary kid in Papua New Guinea, cross-cultural worker in Indonesia, women’s ministry director, and Bible College adjunct professor adds a global dimension to her study of Scripture and the stories she tells. Through her blog, Pondered Treasures, and her book, Favored Blessed Pierced: A Fresh Look at Mary of Nazareth, Eva invites readers to slow down, reflect, and practically apply God’s word to life. Currently she and her husband live in Richardson, Texas and promote the well-being of global workers in a church planting mission agency. A graduate of Baylor University, she also has a Master of Christian Education from Columbia International University in Columbia, S.C. Crafting (specifically macramé) and spending time with her two sons and a daughter-in-law rejuvenates her soul.

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