Vol. 1 - No. 1 

January, 1982

How Do You Get People

To Do What's Right?

by Warren E. Berkley

One of the most heart-breaking experiences you can have, is the experience of seeing someone you love not living right. The apostle Paul had this experience; it is reflected in two different passages. Romans 10:1 indicates his deep concern for his fellow Jews who had not obeyed the gospel. He said, "Brethren, my heart's desire and my supplication to God is for them, that they may be saved." He was al­so concerned about those who had obeyed the gospel, so he said (in 2 Corinthians 11:28) "there is that which presseth upon me daily, anxiety for all the churches."

 It is a difficult emotional experience to see someone you love not living right. Yet we all find ourselves in this circumstance. We have close friends and relatives who are not Christians. Maybe we are close to someone who has obeyed the gospel, but they are now out of duty. There are husbands who are concerned about their wives who are not living right, and wives who weep over unbelieving husbands. A host of parents who are Christians could testify about their agony over sons and daughters who serve Satan. It is a real problem.

 And legitimate concern sometimes leads to worry, and worry to depression. I know of cases where people, in my judgment, made themselves physically sick; and it all started with this experience of seeing someone live a life of lawlessness, some loved one. It can make you miserable.

 To help put matters in perspective, let's dwell on this basic question: How do you get people to do what's right?

 Some Things That Won't Help

 Worry and depression won't help! If someone you are close to isn't living right, it is only natural and right for you to be concerned; there should be legitimate concern and compassion. But worry and depression won't help. To illustrate, suppose you are concerned about me. My life isn't right in the sight of God and it is obvious; I am involved in lasciviousness, drunkenness, profanity and I seem to be impenitent and rebellious toward efforts to recover me from the snare of the devil. You are concerned about my condition, but you let that concern develop into worry and depression. You can't eat; you can't sleep; you can't get your work done. You sit around and wring your hands in anxiety for hours and make yourself sick, irritable and miserable to be around. But YOU HAVEN'T DONE ANYTHING FOR ME! Worry and depression just doesn't help; it doesn't accomplish anything. (see Matthew 6:27).

 Constant complaining and criticizing won't help! Now, there is constructive criticism (admonition), and that will help; more about that later. But constant complaining, griping and criticizing is usually detrimental. Parents sometimes fall into this habit. Every time little Tommy makes a mistake, he is faced with a barrage of bitter criticism. Almost everything that's said to him and about him is negative and critical (eventually he may become convinced that he isn't worth anything; his self-image may be damaged). But the apostle Paul condemned this approach to rearing children in Ephesians 6:4 where he warned: "do not provoke your children to anger." In trying to get people we love to do what's right, constant griping and criticizing isn't the best approach. Resist that temptation.

 Subtle forms of bribery won't help! In religion today, there is a lot of bribery going on; it usually isn't called "bribery," but that's what it is. When you tell a six year old that he can have a piece of candy IF he will ride a bus to Sunday School, that's nothing but bribery, If a local church offers recreation, entertainment and "fellowship" dinners to increase and/or maintain membership, it is bribery. There's a lot of it in religion today. And there is a temptation to resort to bribery when we're trying to get someone we love to do what's right. Sometimes flattery is used, in an effort to get someone to do what we expect of them. Perhaps, without fully realizing what we are doing, we might use certain material favors to interest someone or motivate someone. These subtle forms of bribery are not effective, because when you take the bait away the interest disappears.

 How do you get people to do what's right? Here are some approaches we shouldn't resort to: worry and depression, constant complaining and criticizing and subtle forms of bribery. Let's be concerned about our loved ones and close friends who are not faithful Christians, but let's be careful about our approach in helping them or our response to their dangerous condition.

 Four Things We Can Do

 We can teach them. The most powerful force available to change people and get them to do what's right is THE GOSPEL; it is "the power of God unto salvation." (Romans 1:16). It makes the other methods look pretty weak and useless: worry and depression doesn't have the power to save; constant complaining and criticizing doesn't have the power to save; bribery doesn't have the power to save! Gospel truth has the power to save, but it must be taught, then believed and obeyed. Why is it that we can complain and worry about a sinner, but we can't seem to work up the courage to present the gospel to this sinner? Here is something positive and productive we can do to help those who are not living right. If they are receptive and obedient to the message, their lives will be changed. If not, we can take some comfort in the fact that we have done our duty toward them; we have attempted to reach them with the most powerful force available to change lives. (Something should be said here about persistence and patience in teaching. Don't expect results after one fifteen minute session! Repetition and persistence will usually be required.)

 We can admonish them. Admonition is constructive criticism; the word "admonish" simply means "to put into the mind and urge to obey." When we endeavor to put the truth into someone's mind and. we urge them to obey it, we are fulfilling the duty to "admonish one another." (Romans 15:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:14) Let it be understood that admonitions should not be mistaken for vague wishes. ("Sure would like to see you in Bible class Wednesday night.") But admonitions should be specific, but not belligerent; clear, but not condescending or haughty. If I am forsaking the assemblies, I need to be reminded what the Bible says about that and urged to repent. If I am guilty of lasciviousness, someone needs to confront me with what the Bible says about that. The guilty one may not respond; there may even be a reaction of anger and contempt. But again, we have done our duty.

 We can pray for them. Remember the earlier reference to Romans 10:1? Paul's concern prompted prayer: "Brethren, my heart's desire and my supplication to God is for them, that they may be saved." We often, at least in practice, under-estimate the power of prayer. Let us use opportunities to teach those who are not living right, and let us "admonish one another." Then let us pray for the desired results.

 We can show them by our example. You can teach and admonish, and teach and admonish, and then repeat the efforts; it probably won't do any good if your example isn't right! Paul impressed Timothy with this when he said: "Take heed to thyself, and to thy teaching." (1 Timothy 4:16) This matter of example is exactly what the apostle Peter wrote about in 1 Peter 3:1. "In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives." (NASB) The power of example must accompany all efforts to teach and admonish.


 The question is, HOW DO YOU GET PEOPLE TO DO WHAT'S RIGHT? Worry and depression won't help; neither will constant criticism or bribery. But there are some things we can and should do. We can teach and admonish and pray; then accompany these efforts with a godly example.

 One final point: desire to be saved is absolutely necessary in order to be saved! If a person doesn't want to be saved and do what's right, they can't, because desire is essential. (see Matthew 16:24 and Revelation 22:17) So we may have to face situations where we've done all the right things to get the loved one to change. But the simple fact is: THEY HAVE NO DESIRE TO BE SAVED AND DO WHAT'S RIGHT. It is sad, but we shouldn't feel guilty about it if we've done our duty.

 It is good and right to be concerned about our friends and loved ones who are not faithful Christians. But let's be careful about what we do and how we respond.