I can see three principles to draw from this passage related to manipulation.

  1. When being manipulated by someone, it is sometimes healthy to withdraw temporarily, especially if the situation is abusive.
  2. When being manipulated by someone, it is sometimes healthy to act as a mirror to the other person’s motivation, speaking with the level of certainty that God has revealed to you.
  3. When being manipulated by someone, it is always important to continue to deal directly with the person, rather than complain about them to someone else.

I sometimes wonder what I would do if I were in Jesus’ sandals. In this situation, I can definitely see myself withdrawing, as I tend to do that very well. I sometimes wonder if my withdrawal is more based on fear than wisdom, though. I’ve found that if I continue to avoid the person or situation, then my withdrawal is probably not healthy.

As I think about His directness, I don’t know if I would have had the courage to love the crowd as much as He did. I want followers – that is, I want people to like me. Sometimes I find that I want people to like me more than I care about loving them. This interaction happened at the beginning of Jesus’ third year of ministry. He was pretty popular and famous by then, as evidenced by the 5000 men (not including women and children) who were recently fed. If I were in His sandals, I don’t know if I would have risked my popularity or fame to serve as a loving mirror – pointing out the underlying motivation in the hearts of the crowd – knowing that it would quite possibly cause many of them to turn away. In some way, I would then be manipulating them.

It’s fairly easy to identify when I feel like someone is manipulating me. There’s a righteous indignation that stirs at the injustice of being used for the benefit of someone else. It’s ironic (and humbling) to see that if I refused to love the crowd as well as Jesus did, I become just as manipulative. They would be trying to use me as a source of bread, but I would (just as sinfully) be trying to use them so that they would like me.


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