According to Matthew 28:18-20, our goal as believers is to lead people to become obedient and reproducing disciples of Jesus Christ. Sounds simple. We have the answer and eternal hope that people need. So, we should just tell them that their sinful living is wrong and that a life of faith is right, right? It doesn’t always work that way.

Sometimes in our human nature, we get caught up in being “right” and forget about just sharing the “light.” We may offend and turn people off with our good intentions.

But Jesus Christ demonstrated four principles for winning people instead of just winning arguments.

• Engage with those who hold opposing points of view. I love the story about the woman who was confiding to her next-door neighbor about her husband: “George is driving me crazy with his obsession with fishing. Every day after work he comes home, runs to the bathroom, puts on his waders, hops in the bathtub, and starts fishing out of the commode.”

“That’s terrible,” the neighbor responded. “Have you taken him to a psychiatrist?”

“No,” the woman signed, “I’ve been too busy cleaning fish.”

Here’s the simple truth. If you want to catch fish, you have to go where the fish are. Jesus understood that principle. As an avid Fisherman of men and women, Jesus went where the people were. In the opening verse of John 4, the apostle recorded, “[Jesus] left Judea and went away again into Galilee. And He had to pass through Samaria” (verses 3-4).

Had to pass through Samaria? Why? There were certainly other routes Jesus could have taken from Judea to the northern region of Galilee. But Jesus “had to pass through Samaria” because He had a divine appointment with a potential new “catch” for His kingdom. Instead of hanging out in a monastery with His disciples, Jesus was regularly hitting the pavement recruiting new converts. During the three brief years He spent here on earth, His goal was not isolation, but influence. And He urged us to adopt the same mind-set as well: “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? … You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 28:18-20).

In Jesus’ day salt was a highly valued commodity used not only to add flavor to food but also to preserve the food in days when refrigeration was unavailable. However, for salt to perform its job, it had to come into contact with the food. At the same time it was imperative that the salt not be diluted or it would become worthless and be thrown away.

Some Christians so identify with the world that they lose their “saltiness” and become worthless to God’s kingdom. Other Christians, fearful of contamination by the culture, go to the opposite extreme and isolate themselves form unbelievers. They huddle together in churches, Christian schools, and fellowship groups, hoping to insulate themselves against any contact with unbelievers that might corrupt them.

But Jesus discourages us from either identifying with or isolating ourselves from our culture. Instead, He urges us to influence our world. And we can do that only when we come into contact with unbelievers — up close and personal.

• Listen to other people’s stories. They way we influence others is not by cornering them and then dumping our “stuff” on them. Instead of unloading our spiritual dump truck of arguments and answers to unasked questions, we need to carefully listen to the person we are trying to influence. An insurance salesman friend told me, “A good salesman learns to listen — really listen — to a potential customer.” Why? “By listening you learn his interests, his needs, and his potential objections to your product.”