“Bait and switch” is an old phrase used as a sales technique from the old days. Bait the customer inside your establishment with media ads, telling them what great deals you have on something you know they want. However, when you come to look, feel and decide if the product is indeed what is advertised, the salesman will persuade you to check out the higher priced model that will “be a much better deal with more gadgets to make our lives easier”. And besides that, the one advertised is suddenly “out of stock” and will take weeks or months to get. Car, appliance and other types of salespeople are trained to do this still today. Why? Because it works. We want the most for our money. True. So, the old “bait and switch” manipulation cause us to spend more than we expected. Later, we are disappointed that we fell for it.
PERSUASION VS. MANIPULATION—WE NEED TO TALK …
Paul is a passionate persuader of telling the Good News of Jesus saving grace to all who comes within earshot of the Message. But he doesn’t do this for his own gain like a salesperson. That’s not where his heart is. We need to talk about the difference between a persuader and a manipulator. You will find both in the believing world! A persuader wants nothing for themselves. They lay Truth on the table, out in the open, for all to see, hear, feel and understand. Their greatest desire is for you to know what you are getting into with encouragement and information to help you. A persuader does not use “bait and switch”, no hidden agendas to get what THEY want. A persuader knows and is assured they have what is needed for you best. They have Jesus and want you to have Jesus. Simple. Nothing more. Nothing less than Jesus. Jesus is not a product to be sold, but a Life to be lived forward!
A manipulator does have hidden agendas which are about power—to have and to hold over the one that are manipulating with words that draw attention to themselves. They tell you what you want hear so you will like them. They will tell you what they can do for you, with promises they cannot possibly keep, motivated by self—what it will do for them. They want to be liked by people and will say anything to get them to come on “their side” of life. Once there, they move on to manipulate others who fall for their agendas of self-promotion. “But God is fed up, ready to put an end to it.”, writes Paul.
Where your heart is, so is your behavior, says Jesus. Be a persuader of HIS salvation news to those in desperate need of a Savior. Allow His Holy Spirit to guide our thoughts, words and actions. Manipulation is a game. Persuasion is a work of the heart.
1 Thessalonians 2, The Message
1-2 So, friends, it’s obvious that our visit to you was no waste of time. We had just been given rough treatment in Philippi, as you know, but that didn’t slow us down. We were sure of ourselves in God, and went right ahead and said our piece, presenting God’s Message to you, defiant of the opposition.
No Hidden Agendas
3-5 God tested us thoroughly to make sure we were qualified to be trusted with this Message. Be assured that when we speak to you we’re not after crowd approval—only God approval. Since we’ve been put through that battery of tests, you’re guaranteed that both we and the Message are free of error, mixed motives, or hidden agendas. We never used words to butter you up. No one knows that better than you. And God knows we never used words as a smoke screen to take advantage of you.
6-8 Even though we had some standing as Christ’s apostles, we never threw our weight around or tried to come across as important, with you or anyone else. We weren’t standoffish with you. We took you just as you were. We were never patronizing, never condescending, but we cared for you the way a mother cares for her children. We loved you dearly. Not content to just pass on the Message, we wanted to give you our hearts. And we did.
9-12 You remember us in those days, friends, working our fingers to the bone, up half the night, moonlighting so you wouldn’t have the burden of supporting us while we proclaimed God’s Message to you. You saw with your own eyes how discreet and courteous we were among you, with keen sensitivity to you as fellow believers. And God knows we weren’t freeloaders! You experienced it all firsthand. With each of you we were like a father with his child, holding your hand, whispering encouragement, showing you step-by-step how to live well before God, who called us into his own kingdom, into this delightful life.
13 And now we look back on all this and thank God, a geyser of thanks! When you got the Message of God we preached, you didn’t pass it off as just one more human opinion, but you took it to heart as God’s true word to you, which it is, God himself at work in you believers!
14-16 Friends, do you realize that you followed in the exact footsteps of the churches of God in Judea, those who were the first to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ? You got the same bad treatment from your countrymen as they did from theirs, the Jews who killed the Master Jesus (to say nothing of the prophets) and followed it up by running us out of town. They make themselves offensive to God and everyone else by trying to keep us from telling people who’ve never heard of our God how to be saved. They’ve made a career of opposing God, and have gotten mighty good at it. But God is fed up, ready to put an end to it.
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17-20 Do you have any idea how very homesick we became for you, dear friends? Even though it hadn’t been that long and it was only our bodies that were separated from you, not our hearts, we tried our very best to get back to see you. You can’t imagine how much we missed you! I, Paul, tried over and over to get back, but Satan thwarted us each time. Who do you think we’re going to be proud of when our Master Jesus appears if it’s not you? You’re our pride and joy!
PAUSE, REFLECT, PRAY
When we talk to people about Jesus, what is our motivation? Is it to build attendance for our particular church organization or to help people find Jesus and follow Him along with other imperfect people?
Consider this: Do we invite people to church, telling them coming to church will solve all their problems? Let’s rethink this after reading Paul’s words. Inviting people to church is a manipulation tactic that we have all used if we admit it. We add words like, “Our preacher is a really great speaker”, “our band it the greatest”, or “we are the friendliest church in town, you’re going to love going there”! We’ve all said these words because these are easy words to say.
However, we are a bit misleading by only inviting people in this way. Wait, what!? Yes, friends, if we only invite people to church as a way to solve their problems we are not telling the whole story. Church is full of imperfect people who will disappoint people who think they are perfect and will solve their issues in life. Church does not solve all your problems. Only Jesus. Only Jesus saves us from sin. Only Jesus knows us inside out and outside in. Church does not. Church is a place to learn to learn and grow with other very imperfect people.
Consider this option of persuasion: Invite people to Jesus, the One and Only who IS perfect and will not disappoint! Tell them what Jesus has done for you in words they will understand. Tell the Truth of Jesus’ saving grace with how you now live for Him because of what He has done in your life. This is an initiation with no hidden agendas. THIS is what Paul was talking about when he told the church in Thessalonica, “When you got the Message of God we preached, you didn’t pass it off as just one more human opinion, but you took it to heart as God’s true word to you, which it is, God himself at work in you believers!”
Be a persuader, not a manipulator! Be reconciled to Christ!
You alone saved me from my sins. You convict me and teach me how to walk in your ways with what to say, in your Name, for your glory so others will find and follow you, too. Continue to teach me for I have not arrived at perfection and won’t until I see you face to face in all your glory. Continue to transform me, day by day, hour by hour. Help me to persuade others so they can be saved and begin living forward in Hope which is all You!
In Jesus Name, Amen