Biography and Soil

People often ask me for advice about how to deal with people. How can I reach this person? How can I change that person? How can I get this person to believe, come to church, or pray?

Mostly, I have no idea. Because so much of this is rooted in biography. Why do I, for example, find church meaningful and another person does not? Sure, it probably has something to do with respective churches, but most of the answer is biographical, the things that make us different from each other.

It puts me in mind of Jesus' Parable of the Sower:
When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path.

The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.

The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.

But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.
Same seed but four different sorts of people, leading to four different sorts of outcomes.

I know what I'm saying is blindingly obvious, but can you appreciate how impossible all this makes answering questions about how to change or influence another human being? I can give you some advice--"Say X or do X for this person"--but depending upon where that person is when you say or do X--what sort of soil they are--you can end up with wildly different outcomes.

All you can do is sow a good word. But in the the end, the outcome depends upon the soil.

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