Some of you may be familiar with Schaeffer's maxim of "Truth without Love is Ugly, and Love without Truth is Compromise" This is believed to be a paraphrase of Schaeffer's teaching in his small work called The Mark of a Christian. This maxim is not the requirement for being a Christian, but it is the mark and result of Christian maturity. It would be nice if all Christians aspired toward this understanding, but sadly, in a fallen world, this is not the case. For often, even for those that aspire to practice this maxim, we struggle and fail at times to uphold this principle perfectly. In no other area is this more blatantly apparent than in the use of words.
When I hear a Christian speak to others with inconsideration concerning matters of Christian Truth, whether knowledgeable, or not, I question whether the Christian has grasped the Grace that came with it. Truth should make us humble, not proud. When inconsiderate Christians speak poorly, they reflect the lack of Truth's effect upon their very own heart and tarnish the view of Truth before all who witness it. In short, when we do this, we are bearing false witness to a watching world. When we parrot lines from others without examining their words, we testify that we do not live an examined life. Nor are we considerate of the plight of others and their situation. We of all people should be able to speak considerately, as we have been forgiven much. Let us all ask ourselves, "Is this our practice?"
When I speak of the Art of Words, I speak of the care and creativity of crafting words. Today many Christians do not really craft words, many blurt the most immediate thing on their mind, without consideration. Christianese and Bible Speak can often be more disruptive than helpful. We must consider our audience, and we must speak graciously. In the context of being Transformational people, who are works in progress, it is safe to say we will not do this perfectly, but we must not just follow the status quo. The current standard among many people in America, is to have no standard, or at least to have a very limited one, only applied in certain settings, such as work, or in the presence of grandma or children. Surely we can do better.
We have all probably heard the phrase taken from Proverbs 23:7 that states "As a man thinketh in his heart so is he" which is more literally translated "As a man thinks in his soul." What the ancient author is referring to by saying "heart" is the "seat of the emotions and thought," or more simply stated, a person's essence. If truth is really ingrained in your thinking, then when we speak it should be properly reflected and weighed. As noted in 2 Cor. 10: 5, we are to "take every thought captive" This involves the work of the mind, engaged on spiritual matters and engaged on our language.
We should think about how Christ responded to the wrong usage of words:
Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. (Matthew 12:33-37 ESV)Consider this. Here is Jesus, who is identified as "The Word" (Jn 1:1), telling those who speak in such a way as to twist truth, that they will be condemned by their careless words. Advice: If you attend a church where the minister is involved in careless speech, RUN! ~ However, we should consider also that the traits Jesus describe are also applied to us. Do not speak like these people! It is not to be this way for those who are of the "good tree," they will bear good fruit, and they will be known by it.
I would now like you to look at the words of Jesus in His pastoral prayer:
I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. (John 17:6-8 ESV)Jesus later goes on to explain how the words he has given to us in the aforementioned passage touch our lives and how the words that we speak after Him will touch the world.
Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, (John 17:17-20 ESV)
If we have been given the Words of Life, from God the Father through the Son, we have an obligation not to misrepresent them. We must testify of their truthfulness, though our actions an exhibition of the truth in our lives. We are thus to testify of through these words, in the most artful (being creative, after our creative creator), careful and truthful manner. All of this sheds a great amount of light on our words. When we speak to others, we carry an enormous responsibility. We are carrying the Gospel. May we all aspire to speak more graciously and truthful and reflect more carefully the truth that is transforming us!