Last night we concluded the series ‘Passing On the Baton’, looking at how we pass on this message of truth to every generation. The message of truth will not change over the years, but the methods we use to spread the word may well have to change. We have to be like Paul, who said ‘I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.’ (1 Cor 9:22 TNIV). He learned to be versatile and flexible in the methods he used (becoming like a Jew to the Jews, like one not having the law to the Gentiles, like the weak when ministering to the weak and so on) and so must we.
There is no ‘magic formula’ for how we must pass on the baton of truth, despite what marketing men may have us believe! How we pass on the baton of truth to the next generation and to those all around us will vary. We can’t have any prescribed rules, any set formula, any fixed way of doing things. Our message must use methods that will be flexible enough to meet people’s needs where they are.
Often, we are resistant to change because it challenges us and because we like doing things a certain way. But we won’t demand that other people change first. We will understand that the responsibility lies with us to pass on truth and we won’t place unnecessary demands on people, expecting them to follow a set of rules and regulations when we are trying to convey to them the glory of the liberating gospel of Jesus Christ. There is such diversity within the body of Christ (see Romans 12) that there will always be multiple methods that are effective. What must be at the heart of every method we use, however, is the manner of love. Love and gentleness and kindness and humility are the means we use to achieve what we want to achieve. The world has a saying ‘The end justifies the means’, but that is not reflected in Bible teaching. 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 TNIV is our yardstick for ‘how’ we should think, act and speak. The people who have the most effect are the people who love God and who love us. Never underestimate the power of love!
Our character matters enormously to God and will influence the methods we use. Peter told people to respond to questions about the hope we have with ‘gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.’ (1 Pet 3:151-6). He urged people to grow in faith and character (2 Peter 1:3-9 TNIV), for these qualities not only keep us from being ineffective and unproductive in our knowledge of Jesus, they act as confirmations of the truths we are aiming to pass on and help to shape us into the image of Christ, so that when we are passing on truth, what people really see is not us, but Jesus.