What’s the difference between politics and diplomacy?
Although it sounds like the beginning of a joke, it’s actually a question with some significant ramifications.
When politicians are running for office, we as voters get to hear where they stand on issues. We might not agree with all of their stances and opinions, but we tend to go with the person who espouses the policies we agree with. Nothing new there.
But there’s a subtlety to running for public office—especially on a national scale. Political commentators, coaches, and managers tell us you run for office from your perspective (“left” or “right”), but you govern from the middle (center).
In practical terms this means you say what you need to say to get your voter base supporting you and vote for you, but when you actually land in office, you have to come off of that to get anything done. In essence, you’re intentionally changing your perspectives when you actually get into office.
It’s why we as a culture tend to distrust politicians.
On the other hand, diplomats are people who work for another entity and represent someone else’s interests. For example, we might send a delegation from our state to another state to work out a tourism deal. The diplomats from my state are negotiating based on the interests of my state while your diplomats are working in the interests of your state.
At the end of negotiations, there are certain concessions diplomats can make, but there are some they are not authorized to make.
But we generally trust the word of a diplomat because they can’t tell us everything we want to hear. They can only tell us what they’re authorized say. They can only negotiate within the confines of what they are authorized to negotiate.
And the best diplomats are able to move people by persistence, truth, and persuasion. The Bible is not silent on these abilities. In Proverbs 25:15 we read:
Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.Proverbs 25:15
New International Version
We are too tempted to either tell people whatever they want to hear in order to placate them or we become pit bulls and just tell them to suck it up and deal with it. While there may be a place for the latter, there isn’t a place for the former.
Instead, King Solomon insists, patience can change the course of people’s hearts. Gently persuading them towards where they need to go is a far better method. But it will take a high level of self-control.
Diplomacy isn’t lying to get your way. It’s telling the people the truth in a way they do not immediately reject it and you in the process.
It’s patient. It’s gentle. It’s methodical.
Maybe you’re facing a very difficult person in your life. Put the words of King Solomon into practice: use diplomacy.
Know your position. Know theirs. Know where the destination is. And start gently working the path to get that difficult person from where they are to where they need to be.
You very well might be in their life to help them take one more step towards Jesus. If so, you are the diplomat of Jesus. Letting them get by with being difficult won’t help them—that’s not love. Instead, we use our patience and gentleness to represent the interests of Jesus well. We help them take one more step to Him.