This is part five of this article. Please click here to read part one, two, three, or four.
Follow biblical principles in settling a problem.
Make a decision that you will settle any misunderstanding in a biblical and Christ-like manner. That means that if you have a problem you should go to the person and try to settle it rather than criticize what the missionary did. Numerous biblical principles apply to different situations you face, and if we want the Lord to get in on solving the problem, then we must do it His way.
You can solve many problems by prevention.
The best way to stay in good health is not primarily by taking medicine when you become ill. Proper diet, rest, and exercise all play an important role in preventing you from ever getting sick in the first place. As the saying goes, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," and this is as true on the mission field as it is in every other walk of life.
If we work hard to build up some goodwill and if we choose to trust each other when there is a misunderstanding, we can prevent many problems before they ever happen. If we show the other missionaries our heart and perform unselfish acts of kindness on their behalf, they will be likely to give us the benefit of the doubt when misunderstandings arise, as they inevitably will. If we are considerate of other missionaries, they are much more approachable when we need to try to solve a situation.
Be cautious about getting involved in disputes between other missionaries.
At times it may be necessary for a missionary to help solve a problem between two other missionaries. This involvement would most usually occur when the two having the dispute will not speak to each other. I remember one particular time I tried to help solve such a problem, when, before I knew it, I found I was only making matters worse. It was affecting not only the relationship between the two of them, but my relationship with them as well.
Do not criticize other missionaries.
Most of us do not realize how often we make statements that either are critical or can be misconstrued as being critical. Being critical of another missionary will sometimes get back to the other missionary even when you do not expect it to. If you learn to say good about other missionaries even when there are misunderstandings, that will get back to them as well.
Realize missionaries will have different opinions.
Be careful about sharing opinions around missionaries who may disapprove of what you are saying. When a missionary knows another missionary has a definite opinion then it is not necessary to talk about that area of possible contention. Years ago, from time to time, I would cross the path of a missionary who was a good man. We had a different philosophy of the ministry, but we were both doing our best to serve the Lord. Toward the first of our conversations he would say something like, “I know we differ on this and that (he would detail the differences in our opinions) but I am glad we can still be friends.” That statement did not offend me but it is usually wiser not to mention differences unless it become necessary.
Realize missionaries will have different personalities.
My personality is such that I like to joke a lot, cut up, and try to get others to laugh. Some missionaries are pleasant, and kind, and Christ-like but do not enjoy the amount of levity that I do. When I am around them, I decrease the amount of humor I use. When you are with another missionary, try to figure out what he is like, how he thinks, and adjust to his personality. This adjustment will help decrease the chances of a misunderstanding.
Most disagreements can be solved if only one of the missionaries has the right attitude.
Of course, the missionary with the right attitude should be you and me. When we die to self, we are able to put aside our pride and personal feelings which helps us come up with a solution. Hudson Taylor was a tremendous example for other missionaries to follow. He was able to win the hearts of almost every missionary with whom he came into contact. Dr. Howard Taylor in his book on his father comments:
But Taylor not only prayed; he did all that in him lay to promote the unity he felt to be of such importance and to remove misunderstandings. It was hardly to be wondered at, as he was the first to recognize, that the C.I.M. should have come in for a large share of criticism. Its aims and methods never had been popular, and its new departure in the direction of widespread evangelization was of the nature of an experiment. Because the pioneers were young, at the beginning only of their missionary life, it was argued that it could not be right to use them in a work so difficult and important. Undoubtedly they were ignorant and inexperienced as compared with older missionaries, especially with the able men to be found in the foremost ranks of other societies. No one would have been more thankful than Taylor to have seen such workers take the field… If only their critics, and they were many, could come nearer—could meet and know the men in question, and hear from their own lips of the wonderful opportunities God was giving—objections, he had no doubt, would give place to sympathy. But how was this to be brought to pass?
A leader less humble, perhaps, less truly taught of God, might have brushed aside unfriendly criticism, absorbing himself in what he felt to be his own work. But years of self-effacing discipline had not been in vain. Keenly as Taylor felt the attitude of opposition, he knew that those whose views differed most widely from his own might have just as sincere a desire for the advancement of the Kingdom of God. He had grasped, moreover, something of the real, indissoluble oneness of the body of Christ; that it is not that the eye should not say to the hand, “I have no need of thee” –it cannot.
Dr. Howard Taylor later shows the example of how his father could win the heart of a fellow missionary:
For this reason, he was glad rather than otherwise to find himself delayed in Hankow one evening until it was too late to recross the river.Before he could reach the other side the city gates would be shut, and without bedding, etc., he could not very well go to an inn. It was necessary, therefore, to seek hospitality; and this Taylor did by calling upon a missionary with whom he was but slightly acquainted, and who took a very unfavourable view both of he and the C.I.M. Quite simply he explained the circumstances, asking whether it would be convenient to put him up for the night. Christian courtesy admitted but one reply, and the sense of having done a kindness opened the way for friendly intercourse. Taylor being as good a listener as he was a talker, his host found himself drawn into conversation even upon spiritual things. A cordial friendship resulted; the missionary in question taking an early opportunity of letting it be known that he had, “No idea Mr. Taylor was so good a man.”
Down the Yangtze more or less the same experience was repeated, as Taylor visited the river stations, and where missionaries of other societies were to be found, he took time to see something of their work.
If you will take a sincere interest in the life and ministry of another missionary you will nearly always win his heart.