I’m not sure Dale Carnegie would endorse John the Baptist’s approach. John’s message was not at all designed to make him a popular man. And yet, somehow he was definitely attracting crowds — large groups of people fascinated with his message.
And this was not exactly the Ritz-Carlton they were following him to. They had to hike out into the wilderness near the Jordan River to hunt John down. They likely had to camp out there. That’s a lot of effort to hear a sermon.
Consider the way he addressed the crowds. To our modern ears it sounds mean-spirited and bordering on abusive language: “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” (Luke 3:7, NIV).
Then he calls the crowds to change. Not just to a regular, garden-variety, everyday kind of change. Radical change. If they wanted a relationship with God, they must change everything about their lives: “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8, NIV).
And then he accuses them of a lack of integrity. “You call yourselves the children of Abraham,” he tells the crowds, “but you bear absolutely no resemblance to Abraham.” It’s as if he’s saying, if you claim to be the children of Abraham, then even rocks can be children of Abraham: “And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham” (Luke 3:8, NIV).
Finally, he implores them to understand how close they are to absolute destruction: “The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire” (Luke 3:9, NIV).
Now, is that the way to win friends? Or influence people?
Well, it is when you are being authentic and transparent, the way John the Baptist was. It is when your most important Friend is Jesus. And it is when what you really care most about is what that Friend thinks.
It is when you also care enough about the people you are addressing that you really want to see them in heaven with you one day, and right now you see them going in the entirely wrong direction.
Our Bible reading for Friday, March 20, is Numbers 9:15 – 11:3, Luke 3:1-22 and Psalm 35:19-28.
Lord, help me go in the right direction. Give me your Spirit so that I can be truly repentant of my sins, and produce fruit in keeping with repentance. Help me to live according to my identity as a child of Abraham, and through faith in Christ Jesus, a child of God. Thank you that I live in your grace and mercy every day, and that Jesus has won forgiveness of all my sins.
Header image based on "Wrong Way" by Elaine with Grey Cats, CC By-SA 2.0