Do you remember the last time somebody tried to set you up or manipulate you for their purposes? Our kids do it when they want something from us they aren’t sure we will agree to. People do it in business when they want to move us to action despite our reservations. Spouses do it to one another when they think a direct conversation won’t bring about the desired results.
Consider the following scenario. “Bill, give me your advice. My wife is quite a bit overweight and I want to see a change because I don’t think it is fair. I am planning on confronting her and telling her that she is sinning. What do you think?” There is no good way to answer this question. If I agree with him, his wife is going to feel ganged up on and will probably grow defensive. If I disagree with him, he will conclude I am being weak and letting her off the hook. So, what is the best way to approach situations like this?
In John 8, Jesus was confronted with an equally sticky question. “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’” (v. 3-5) It sounds like a sincere, important question but it is actually a set up. “They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.” (v. 6)
Jesus’ response is instructive for all of us. He turned the responsibility back on the people who asked the question, “’Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.” (v. 7-8)
Pushing the decision back on the people who were setting the agenda caused them to think, evaluate and take responsibility, which caused everything to change. They thought they could make Jesus responsible for the decision and then accuse him with it. Instead, they came to grips with the cost they would have to pay for their own choice.
Jesus continued this tactic with the woman who had been put on trial by putting responsibility on her also, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (v. 10-11)
I figured if it was good enough for Jesus, it was good enough for me so I said to this man, “What makes you think that approach will work? Have you seen her respond to these kind of words in the past?”
“Well, no. It usually just makes her mad and stubborn,” he answered.
“So, what makes you think it will work this time?” I asked.
“I guess it probably won’t,” he said quickly.
“What can you do that is different than what you have done in the past that will leave the responsibility for her health with her?”
He thought about it for a few minutes and then said, “I think I am going to say to her, ‘Can I share something with you that has me a little scared?’ If she responds well to that I am going to say, ‘I am concerned that you are going to have health problems in the future so I just want you to know that if you decide on a plan to lose weight, I will support it in any way that is necessary. I really want you around as long as possible so I am committed to help you in any way.’ Do you think that will work better?”
For those of you reading this, What do you think? Will this get a better response?