In light of Holy Week and Easter, let’s talk about Jesus.
It’s been more than a decade since the popular “What Would Jesus Do” (WWJD) bracelets made their way onto the wrists of every youth group kid across America, but in an age of political division, the advancement of a secular society, and attacks on free speech, I think it’s time to revisit what this sentiment means and how we can apply it to our policy-based talking points.
Think: WWJD in a media interview? WWJD at town halls or political rallies? WWJD on social media??
Here are three lessons we can learn from the greatest communicator of all (sorry Ronald Reagan fans, but Jesus wins) and how it translates to current events.
Resist the Echo Chamber
Jesus didn’t speak to only one demographic. He spoke to men and women, young and old, rich and poor, believers and unbelievers. He was an equal opportunist, which was rare and rarely popular. Even his disciples rebuked Him for speaking to children.
But Jesus was not deterred by the unpopular. In fact, he often spoke to skeptics. The first time we hear from Jesus is when he engages religious leaders in the Temple—at the age of 12.
No doubt many people raised an eyebrow or two, but Jesus used it as an opportunity to “be about his Father’s business.” He had a message to spread and he was going to spread it.
So, what can we learn and apply?
Even when we’re met with a less-than-receptive audience, it doesn’t mean we back down and shy away. Instead, speak up!
Jesus engaged the skeptics, and we should do the same. Accept that interview on an unfriendly cable news show, or kindly share your opinion via social media and welcome the opposition, or wade into the hostile town hall.
It’s comfortable and safe in the echo chamber, but you won’t change hearts and minds there.
What you say and how you say it matters, which is why storytelling works. As President Teddy Roosevelt noted, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Show you care about and want to help people by talking about … people.
Jesus was brilliant, but he didn’t destroy skeptics or critics with his words. Instead, he often communicated through stories or, as the Bible calls them, parables.
But why are stories so powerful? A story is sticky. It’s relatable, easy to remember, and communicates your message by engaging the heart AND mind.
There’s a reason Jesus stuck to agricultural references—about weeds, sowing, wheat, harvest, fishing, weather, etc. He was trying to win over a culture who worked with their hands to grow crops and fish for food on the Sea of Galilee.
We can talk all day about the importance of religious liberty in this country, but it doesn’t become real until we mention the 70-year-old grandmother who may lose her business because she’s operating it through the lens of her faith.
Or the family business that may have to close and leave its employees jobless because of “religious literature concerning marriage [displayed] on a breakroom table.”
Tell stories—in media interviews, on social media, or from the stage at a town hall. It refocuses the issue on people instead of policy, and that’s powerful.
Keep Your Cool
Morton Blackwell, the president of the Leadership Institute, has a list of dos and don’ts in what he calls “The Laws of Public Policy Process.” One of my favorites is “Don’t get mad, except on purpose.”
Jesus exhibited righteous anger in the Bible, but it was always purposeful. The most memorable example is when he overturned the moneychanger’s table in the Temple.
But the Bible isn’t filled with examples of Jesus preaching fire and brimstone. Instead, a more common description is “humble servant,” and we’d greatly benefit from applying this discipline in our own lives.
Any conversation with those who disagree with us, whether in person or on a screen, is often thought of as a battle of wits. While a healthy debate with solid talking points is necessary, remember that you aren’t trying to win an argument—you are trying to have a conversation about an important policy issue.
You can’t assume you’ll persuade someone to agree with you after one exchange. But if you remain calm and reasonable, you’ll start to build trust and create space to ask harder questions next time.
While there may be an opportunity to rightly raise your voice and shout it out, it’s rare. Remember that a humble but confident demeanor wins more people to your side.
Jesus is the greatest communicator of all time. If we’re going to seek to win people to our cause, we have to do as Jesus did—speak the truth in a humble, understandable, and relatable way, and keep our emotions in check.
April 17, 2017 By Beverly Hallberg