I am not responsible for how others communicate their thoughts and opinions as they respond to me. I am responsible, however, for how my communication style contributes to our relational environment. I am responsible for both the content and the character of my speech. I am responsible for the motive and the manner and the meaning of what I say, especially in a community setting. In stressful situations where the topics of conversation are emotionally charged, it is sometimes difficult to maintain the level of civility that accords with someone who is following Jesus in the obedience of faith. Fortunately, God has provided a variety of promises which will help us all fine tune our faith when we need to keep a civil tongue in our heads.
Communicate sound ideas irreproachably, in order that our opponents may be put to shame because they have nothing bad to say about us. Titus 2:8
Jesus doesn’t call us to speak harshly or hatefully or haughtily when we contend for the faith or when we are arguing for any other purpose. He asks us to be earnest and enthusiastic and empathetic. The ultimate goal of our persuasion should be generating love in the hearts and behavior of those we engage in conversation. Therefore the way we reason must model that love, especially the manner of our speech. Even if we are reproached or reviled for what we say, we can—trusting in the God who judges justly—refrain from reviling in return; Jesus did. And he is the one we represent. It is worth every effort on our part to keep his name from being assailed. Therefore we can be free of guilt in our interactions with unbelievers, because we can learn to talk meekly, honestly, accurately, and courageously. We can be full of hope in these same conversations because, if we leave any possible opponents no room for reproach about the manner of our communication, God has less to overcome as they consider the matter of what we say. In other words, God may “grant them repentance that leads to an apprehension of the truth.”
Gentle Master, help me remember your Good Friday experience, so I will know it is possible to return a soft answer to harsh accusations, so the renewing power of your grace will be evident in every discussion. Amen.