“All things . . . that you want men to do to you, you also must do to them.”
1. Does it matter how we treat people when we talk to them? Give an example. (See opening picture.)
A COUPLE were preaching in Fiji, inviting people to the Memorial of Christ’s death. They were speaking to a woman outside her home when it began to rain. The brother and his wife gave the woman one of their umbrellas to use. The woman was so impressed that she decided to attend the Memorial. She later said that she did not remember much of what the couple told her, but she did remember the kind way they treated her. The couple had followed what is often called the Golden Rule.
2. What is the Golden Rule, and how can we follow it?
2 What is the Golden Rule? It is the counsel Jesus gave when he said: “All things . . . that you want men to do to you, you also must do to them.” (Matthew 7:12) How can we do that? First, ask yourself, ‘If I were the other person, how would I want to be treated?’ Second, do your best to treat the other person that way.
3, 4. (a) Explain why the Golden Rule applies to the way we treat everybody. (b) What will we discuss in this article?
3 Was Jesus saying that we should follow the Golden Rule only with others in the congregation? No, he was talking about how we should treat everybody, including our enemies. (Read Luke 6:27, 28, 31, 35.) So it is also very important to follow the rule when we preach to people, because many of them may respond well to the good news and gain “everlasting life”!
4 We will now discuss four questions to keep in mind when we are in the ministry. Who is the person I am talking to? Where am I talking to people? When is the best time to talk to them? How should I talk to them? As we will see, these questions can help us to understand how people would like to be treated. Then we will know the best way to talk to each person.
WHO IS THE PERSON I AM TALKING TO?
5. What questions could we ask ourselves?
5 Every person we meet in our ministry is an individual and has his or her own background and problems. (2 Chronicles 6:29) When you talk to someone, ask yourself: ‘If I were the other person, how would I want to be treated? Would I want someone to jump to conclusions about me or judge me before he even knew me? Or would I want him to get to know me as a person?’ These questions can help us to follow the Golden Rule and treat each person as an individual.
6, 7. What should we do if someone we meet in the ministry seems to be angry or rude?
6 For example, Christians do their best to apply the Bible’s counsel to speak always in a kind and polite way. (Colossians 4:6) But we are imperfect. Maybe we are having a bad day and we say something that we later regret. (James 3:2) When that happens, we hope the other person will understand that we are not usually like that. We would not want him to describe us as a rude person. Remembering this helps us to understand that people who are rude to us may also later regret what they say to us.
If someone you meet seems to be angry or is rude to you, can you try to understand why he is acting like that?
7 If someone you meet seems to be angry or is rude to you, can you try to understand why he is acting like that? Could it be that he is under pressure at work or at school? Does he have a serious health problem? Many people who were upset when the Witnesses first met them have responded well when treated with mildness and respect.
All sorts of people can come into the truth
8. Why should we preach the Kingdom message to “people of all sorts”?
8 We preach to all sorts of individuals. In the past few years, over 60 experiences have been published in the Watchtower series “The Bible Changes Lives.” These articles talk about people who used to be thieves, drunkards, gang members, or drug addicts. Others were politicians, religious leaders, or individuals who were only interested in their careers. Some were very immoral. But all of them heard the good news, accepted a Bible study, made changes in their lives, and came into the truth. So we should not think that people like these will never accept the Kingdom message. (Read 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.) “People of all sorts” can come into the truth.
WHERE AM I TALKING TO PEOPLE?
9. Why should we show respect for the homes of others?
9 We often preach to people when they are at their home. (Matthew 10:11-13) Our home is important to us, so we like it when others show respect for our home and personal property. We want our home to be a place where we can feel safe and have privacy. When we are talking to people, we should show the same respect for their home.
People in our territory may be attracted to the truth when we show respect for their home and property
10. How can we avoid upsetting others when we are preaching?
10 We live in a world full of crime, and many householders are suspicious of strangers. (2 Timothy 3:1-5) We should not do anything that makes people suspicious of us. For example, you knock on the front door of a house. If no one answers, you could be tempted to look through the window or walk around the property, searching for the householder. You may do this because you want to find as many people as possible when you are preaching. (Acts 10:42) You sincerely want to help people to learn the truth about God. (Romans 1:14, 15) But in your territory, would that upset the householder? What might his neighbors think? We need to be wise and avoid doing anything that may upset people in our territory. The apostle Paul wrote: “In no way are we giving any cause for stumbling, so that no fault may be found with our ministry.” (2 Corinthians 6:3) People in our territory may be attracted to the truth when we show respect for their home and property.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO TALK TO PEOPLE?
11. Why do we like it when others respect our time?
11 Most of us are very busy. To get everything done, we need to plan ahead and schedule our time carefully. (Ephesians 5:16; Philippians 1:10) If something unexpected changes our schedule, we may feel frustrated. Therefore, we like it when others respect our time and also understand that we may not have much time to spend with them. How can the Golden Rule help us to show that we respect other people’s time?
12. How can we decide when is the best time to talk to people in our territory?
12 When is the best time to talk to people? Ask yourself: ‘In my territory, when are people usually at home? When will they have time to listen?’ It would be good to adjust our schedule to talk to them at those times. In some parts of the world, it is best to go from house to house in the late afternoon or early evening. If that is true where you live, could you plan to talk to people during that time of the day? (Read 1 Corinthians 10:24.) Jehovah will bless any sacrifices we make so that we can preach to people at a time that is best for them.
We should not overstay our welcome
13. How can we show respect for the householder?
13 How else can we show that we respect the householder? When we find someone who listens to our message, we should give a good witness but we should not talk with him for too long. The householder may have planned to do something else that is important to him. If he says that he is busy, we can say that we will not take a lot of his time. Then we should do what we say and be brief. (Matthew 5:37) When we end our conversation, it would be good to ask when would be the best time for us to visit again. Some publishers say: “I would enjoy visiting you again. Would it be best if I telephone or send you a text message before I come?” When we respect that people are busy and have their own plans, we are following Paul’s example. He did not do what was best for him, but he did what was best for “the many, so that they may be saved.”
HOW SHOULD I TALK TO PEOPLE?
14-16. (a) Why should we clearly tell the householder the reason for our visit? Give an example. (b) What has one traveling overseer found to be effective?
14 Imagine that somebody phones you but you do not recognize the caller’s voice. He is a stranger, but he asks you what type of food you like. You wonder who the caller is and what he really wants. You do not want to be rude, so you may talk to him for a short time, but then you would likely end the conversation. Now imagine the same call but the caller tells you who he is and that his job is to help people to eat healthy food. He kindly tells you that he has some information that may help you. You would probably want to listen to him. In fact, we like it when people do not hide who they are when they speak to us. How can we show the same respect for people we meet?
We want the householder to enjoy talking with us
15 In many territories, we should clearly tell the householder the reason for our visit. It is true that we have valuable information that the householder needs. But imagine that we do not say who we are and why we are there but just start our presentation with a question like this: “If you could solve any problem in the world, what would it be?” We ask the question to find out what the person is thinking so that we can use the Bible in our conversation. However, the householder might wonder: ‘Who is this stranger, and why is he asking me this question? What is this all about?’ We want the householder to enjoy talking with us. (Philippians 2:3, 4) So how can we do this?
We need to understand that it is important to adjust our presentation so that people will want to listen to our message
16 One traveling overseer does the following: After greeting the householder, he gives him a copy of the tract Would You Like to Know the Truth? and says: “We’re giving one of these to everyone in the area today. It discusses six questions that many people ask. Here is your copy.” The brother says that when they know why he is visiting them, most people seem to relax and it is easier to continue the conversation. The brother then asks the person: “Have you ever thought about any of these questions?” If the householder chooses one, the brother opens the tract and discusses what the Bible says about that question. If not, the brother selects a question and continues the conversation without embarrassing the householder. Of course, there are many ways to start a conversation. In some places, we need to follow certain customs when we greet people before we tell them why we are there. We need to understand that it is important to adjust our presentation so that people will want to listen to our message.
FOLLOW THE GOLDEN RULE WHEN YOU PREACH
17. What are some ways in which we can follow the Golden Rule when we preach?
17 What have we learned that can help us to follow the Golden Rule when we preach? We treat each person as an individual. We show respect for the householder’s home and personal property. We do our best to preach when people are at home and may have some time to listen to us. We introduce our message in a way that makes people in our territory want to listen.
18. Why is it good to treat those in our territory as we would like to be treated?
18 When we treat those in our territory in a kind way and think about how they feel, we show that we apply Bible principles, which gives glory to our heavenly Father. (Matthew 5:16) More people may want to learn the truth when we treat them with respect. (1 Timothy 4:16) No matter how people respond to the Kingdom message, we will know that we have done our best in our ministry. (2 Timothy 4:5) Let us imitate the apostle Paul, who wrote: “I do all things for the sake of the good news, in order to share it with others.” (1 Corinthians 9:23) May all of us follow the Golden Rule when we talk to others.