All of my problems are relationship problems. Usually they revolve around how I use my words. A CIU alumnus, Paul Tripp, offers great insights on our words in his weekly devotional.
“There’s an amazing proverb that Eugene Peterson translates: “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.“ (Proverbs 18:21, The Message)
How do you use words to “give life“ to your friendship? Does it mean that you quote Scripture incessantly? Should you continuously point out the sin in others? Are you allowed to talk about sports or the weather?
There’s probably no better guide about how to talk with friends than Ephesians 4:29: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (ESV)
This verse, and all of Scripture, doesn’t give us a pre-approved vocabulary list to use or avoid; instead, it teaches us how to speak with a biblical agenda. There are three aspects of that agenda:
Consider The Person
“…only such as is good for building up…”
Gospel-centered communication is always other-centered communication. The Apostle Paul says I should never say anything to a friend that is not helpful for them. My words must not be spoken from a self-centered agenda where I am seeking to establish my will in the friendship, but spoken from an ambassadorial agenda, where I seek to be part of what the King is doing in the life of my friend.
Consider The Problem
“…as fits the occasion…”
Before I speak, I must think about what my friend is struggling with and what they most need at the moment. Do they need encouragement, comfort, hope, direction, wisdom, courage, rebuke, warning, forgiveness, patience, teaching, correction, thanks, insight, a job description, or something else? My words must be shaped by an awareness of their need.
Consider The Process
…that it may give grace to those who hear.”
Gospel-centered communication is not just about the content of my words, but how they are spoken. Often I choose to say the right thing, but in the wrong way or at the wrong time. Confronting a teenager five minutes before they leave for school is not helpful, even if the content is accurate. Rebuking a friend for an offense in front of others is not beneficial, even if they need to be confronted. Asking your spouse to consider how they hurt you as they are trying to get to sleep might not be the best time, even if you do need to reconcile.
Here is what we all must remember: God has a bigger agenda for our friendships than we do. These relationships are designed to be workrooms for redemption, not shelters for human happiness.
What do your words reveal? Are you settling for your own definition of personal happiness when God’s purpose is nothing short of conforming us to the image of Christ?
If we are ever going to give grace when we talk, we need grace to free us from our bondage to ourselves so that our words may be liberated to be used by God.”
Will I live with a daily awareness of how potent God has created my words to be? He uses words to create our world, and communicate his heart and truth to us. Jesus is logos “the Word”. We bear God’s image as word empowered creation.
I have two types of words — internal (my inside talk in my head) and my external words (using my physical vocal organs to spew words into the world). Both types need to be under the rule of God’s Spirit. Godly words come from a humble surrender to hold my words, think before I speak, restrain the timing, and examine my motive behind my words.
HOW IS GOD RESHAPING YOU BY RESHAPING HOW YOU USE WORDS? LET ME HEAR FROM YOU.