Author: Ron Graham
Positive Christian Communication
The text for this lesson is a most definitive statement about Christian communication... "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification, according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear it" (Ephesians 4:29).
1 Righteous Communication
The passage into which this verse fits, tells us not to speak evil. However, there is more to Christian communication than the mere absence of evil speaking. We do not avoid speaking evil by ceasing to speak at all. Of course, we have to be careful in what we say, but our challenge is to speak so that our utterances are righteous. That is usually far more use than silence.
Of course there is "a time to speak and a time to keep silent" (Ecclesiastes 3:7) nevertheless "a word fitly spoken" (Proverbs 25:11) is, in general, more positive and of more value than silence.
Speaking to Please God
So, knowing that God is displeased with evil speaking, we do not respond to his displeasure by offering him silence. If someone complained that you always burnt their toast, you would not stop serving them toast or give them plain bread. That would not make them happy. You would try to give them toast just the way they like it.
By the same principle, if God is not happy with the way we speak, we don't stop speaking, but rather we try to conform our speech to that which will please God (Ephesians 5:9-11).
The Bridled Tongue
James tells the Christian to "bridle his tongue" (James 1:26). But we don't put bridles on horses and "bits into horses' mouths" (James 3:2-3) to make the horses go nowhere, but to tame their wildness and make them go in an orderly manner as we wish.
In the same way, we bridle our tongues to replace the wild uncontrolled speech with disciplined and positive speech.
Our text (Ephesians 4:29) shows us the positive nature of Christian communication, and that's what we must try to practice.
2 Three Things Our Words Should Do
Our text (Ephesians 4:29) requires three things of our speech. These three requisites cover the intent, content, and extent of our speech, and set the standard for Christian communication.
- To Well Edify. First our communication should be "good for edification." The Christian should speak so as to edify or build up. Here, we are concerned with the intent behind Christian communication, in other words, it's aim.
- To Suit the Need. Second our communication should be "according to the need of the moment." Our speech should fully satisfy whatever the present occasion or circumstance requires. Here, we are concerned with the extent of Christian communication, in other words, its effectiveness.
- To Give Grace to the Hearer. Third, our communication should "give grace to those who hear". Our words should be a gift. They should bless those who hear. Here, we are concerned with the content of our speech, in other words its character.
3 Improving Poor Communication
There are all kinds of communication problems that we encounter. For example, we may come up against the brick walls of the taciturn and tight-lipped. Again, we might experience an atmosphere of fear and an undercurrent of mistrust, jealousy, cliquishness, judgmental assumptions. We may observe whispering and backbiting.
There may be the kind of negative communication that makes you feel unhelped, pushed aside, foolish, kept in the dark. All these "negative vibes" and many more, exist because people are not following God's guidelines for positive Christian communication.
We finish our lesson with a few pointers to improving our communication and making it positive, fruitful, and pleasing to God.
- Truth in love. "Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow..." (Ephesians 4:15). Using these two criteria alone, we can eliminate just about all evil and negative communication. Is what we say truthful, and is it spoken in love?
- Let Yes be Yes. Jesus says, "Let your yes be yes, and your no be no" (Matthew 5:37). It is up to us to say things that ought to be trusted, and to say those things simply. The trust is up to others. People will begin to trust us when they find our word to be consistently reliable.
- Be slow to speak. "Quick to hear and slow to speak" (James 1:19). This does not mean that we take ages to say anything. Rather, it means that we think before we speak, and that we listen to others before we answer them, so that our reply will satisfy their needs.
- The name of Jesus. "Whatever you do, in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Colossians 3:17).
- If we ensured that what we say is what Jesus would say, and when we speak we represent God properly, that would eliminate all negative and destructive communication. Peter said the same thing in another way, and this is a fitting statement with which to close our lesson: "If any man speak, let him speak as it were the oracles of God" (1Peter 4:11).