I cannot remember who the first person was I heard saying this, but it remains stuck in my head, “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”. I do not know what you do with flies, but at least, I do not like them around me neither I want to catch them. Whenever my wife sees one, she wants to kill it in order to stop bothering her. I remember traveling to some places and during a short stop in a restaurant or a house, people have big transparent bags filled with water in order to repel them. So, why we would want to catch more flies with honey than with vinegar? Well, I learned that it is an old English proverb and therefore, it cannot be taken literally.
During the past week, as we were part of a campaign in Boquete, Panama, that proverb came to my mind several times. Especially, there was one day, when we finished to knock doors and invite people to come to the Gospel meeting that, a young man, come to me and told me, very excited, how they “attacked” a family with the gospel. Yes, I can almost see you, my dear reader, and the expression that might be in your face when you read that word, attacked. My reaction was probably the same. Why would someone like to attack another person with the gospel? A few minutes later, that same young man saw a group of children that finished to play soccer and told me, “let us go and attack them as the gospel is more important than soccer”. I was impressed because of his zeal to bring lost souls to the Lord, but not in his approach. It was not the first time I heard some brethren thinking that by attacking someone with the Word he or she will obey the Lord.
This was our first time working with brother Spencer Broome and the group that comes from America to help the evangelism’s efforts in our country. He emphasized that while it would be great to baptize many of our prospects, our work was to “preach and teach the Word”, “to plant the seed”, to let people know about the message of salvation, and to leave the “baptism” part at the end of the study, instead of at the beginning (as many usually do before). I did agree 100% with him on this approach and loved the way it worked out. Four people were baptized and one restored.
When that young man asked me to “attack” that group, I decided to remind him about the Great Commission. Where in the Bible do we find “go ye into all the world, and attack with the gospel to every creature”? The answer is simple, nowhere. But, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” is said by the Lord to the disciples as recorded by the inspired Mark (Mark 16:15). The Greek form ηρύσσω (kērussō) translated as “preach” in this passage simply means “to herald (as a public crier), especially divine truth (the gospel)” (Strong’s G2784). An herald was an official messenger between leaders. When Barnabas and Paul went to Lystra, the locals thought that Paul was their pagan god Mercurius, “because he was the chief speaker” (Acts 14:12). Mercurius was to the Romans what Hermes was to the Greek, the herald of the gods, the messenger.
The apostle Peter wrote,
“If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:11).
The apostle Paul wrote,
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him… And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:16-17, 23-24).
Christians know that they “serve the Lord Christ”. Our name or description is not given by a man-made creed, but is given by the Scriptures (Acts 11:26, 26:28, 1 Peter 4:16). While Agrippa was almost persuaded to be a Christian, there are thousands of souls out there seeking to know what is needed to be saved, seeking to hear the truth of the message of salvation. The Great Commission has not ended, it was given to the first disciples, and is as active today as it was in the first century. We must speak as God taught us to speak in the Scriptures. We must minister (serve) as God taught us to do in His Holy Word. We must proclaim the powerful message of salvation and not be ashamed of doing it (Romans 1:16), but we must not attack those who gladly received us and want to study God’s Word with us. There will be a moment when we can teach them on the things that they need to correct, but they need to hear the Gospel being preached first.
“You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” simply means that we can win more people to our side by being gentle than by being hostile. Our mission is not only to win them to our side, but to God’s side. We are commanded to be soul winners (Matthew 28:18-20). The wise Solomon wrote, “Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24), His father, David, wrote,
“The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:7-10).
When we go out and evangelize, or have a Bible study, we must remember always that the Word of God is Truth (John 17:17). The Word of God is the one that has the power to save (Romans 1:16), not the traditions of men, neither our opinions. More people will be receptive to hear and study the Word of God when we do a right approach. Attacking them will not bring them to Christ, but send them to Satan. There will be a moment when we can explain to them about the errors if which they may be involved, but they need to hear first why the Bible is important, why there are so many “churches” and what they need in order to be saved. When they open the door of their houses and let us enter, they are doing more than that, they are opening their hearts and minds to listen not what we have to say, but what God says. Our Savior came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). We are commanded to do a very similar job when we evangelize, but we do not save them, God does.
Jesus Christ, during his ministry on earth, told to the seventy disciples, “He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me” (Luke 10:16). Similar wording was used by the apostle Paul to the Christians at Thessalonica, “He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 4:8). Whosoever decides not to open their door, or listen to the message of salvation does not reject us but God. When one door closes another one opens. Let us keep motivated in doing what is right according to God, and do not let the Devil win by being discouraged and stopping doing this good work. As the Lord taught us in the powerful Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-20, Luke 8:4-15), let us go out and plant the seed (which is the Word of God, Luke 8:11), and while there are different types of soil, some will be more receptive than others, and the sincere hearts will do what is required in order to be one with the Lord (Ephesians 1:22-23, 4:4-6).
To conclude, let us remember the words written by James,
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20).
The next time we knock on a door and the owner opened it, let us forget about winning the argument, and let us focus on winning the soul. Let us pay attention to what they say, let us think twice before talk (one brother once said that that might be the reason why God created us with two ears and one mouth), and treat them how we would love to be treated (Matthew 7:12). Let us respect them, thank them for their time, and speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), and boldly (Ephesians 6:19). Sometimes we will be the ones who plant the seed, other times the ones who watered it, but, the One who gives the increase is our heavenly Father, we are just His ministers, His husbandry, His building, and because of that, we must be thankful for being able to labor together with Him (1 Corinthians 3:5-9).
Let us use the honey instead of the vinegar when we teach others about the abundant blessings of obeying God’s Word. To God be all glory forever and ever!
God bless you!