Thursday, December 01, 2011

How to Speak With Others

How do we respond to people in dealing with challenges -- including sin issues -- in the community?  We live in a world hypersensitized to 'politically correct' speech. Our choice of words can get us into serious trouble, but failing to speak appropriately is failure of leadership and in the end unloving. A word spoken well is a treasure (see Proverbs 25:11).

Jesus must be our model.  Sometimes he spoke boldy, even harshly. Other times he was gentle and warm. Consider these examples:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew

“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? (Matthew 23:33)  [Glenn's comment -- read the whole chapter.This is not an isolated verse out of context as Jesus rails against the teachers of the law.  You won't soften this one.]

“I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” (Mark 1:41)

“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:9-11)

Jesus advocated simple speech in His Sermon on the Mount:

All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. (Matthew 5:37)

Sometimes Jesus didn’t speak at all:
When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long
time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform a sign of some sort. He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. (Luke 23:8-9)

(This may be the most gracious experience Herod could have received from the Lord of the Universe standing in front of him!)

Jesus helps us understand that what comes out of our mouths is really from our hearts:

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. (Luke 6:45)

We see Paul's counsel to the Colossians (and by extension, to us today):

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:5-7)

Jesus' harsh words were less frequent than his warm counsel, and directed at the hard-hearted, legalistic, and proud (but I repeat myself).  I don't know of examples where he spoke harshly to a hurting person who understood that they needed mercy.

A few take-away points:
  • ·         Jesus knew what was in each individual, discerning the heart, and spoke accordingly.  How we speak (or not) with people is based on what helps them, helps the Church mature, and glorifies God.
  •    We will sometimes need to speak hard truths in a hard way.

·         Our conversation must be plain, not duplicitous or deceiving.
·         Our conversation must be grace-full, an expression of the new heart we have from "Christ in us, the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:27)
·         The way to improving our speech is to ask God to transform our hearts.

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