Last week I wrote about what it means to love another person with our words. For disciples of Jesus Christ, God-honoring and neighbor-loving communication cannot be defined simply by vocabulary selection.
The motivation of our heart and the intention of our message is what counts: “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” (Ephesians 4:29).
Because of digital media, “corrupting talk” and “hearing” are no longer limited to verbal communication. We talk, text, tweet, email, share, like, comment, and hashtag all the time. It’s now an inescapable part of who we are and how we interact with others.
So, for the next five weeks, I want to dive deeper into this area of our everyday social life. We will examine five biblical themes that can help expose, convict, restore, and transform our interactions and reactions in relationships.
(P.S. – I write about these themes at length in chapters 3 through 7 of my newest book, Reactivity: How the Gospel Transforms Our Actions and Reactions)
Saying that our interactions, reactions, and relationships are impacted and damaged by sin is obvious, almost too obvious. But it’s nonetheless important to say. And it’s important to state first.
Why? Because when you’re willing to admit that there is such a thing as sin—and more importantly, that you are a sinner—then you have opened the door to understanding your biggest problem and your biggest need.
We don’t have a communication, language, or vocabulary problem; we have a sinful heart problem. “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).
Sinful hearts are self-centered at their core. Sinful people are not naturally motivated by a love for others. Sin is driven by what we want, when we want it, how we want it, and where we want it, no matter what.
Sin shrinks my awareness and field of my concern down to my wants, my needs, and my feelings. It’s me in the center, it’s me in control, and it’s me writing my own rules.
Sin tells me that I have a right to state my opinion and that I have a right to express it however I wish. I have a right to call you out, to put you down, and to dismiss your feelings, no matter the damage or consequences.
Where the self-centeredness of sin lives, productive, insight-producing, relationship-building, unity-producing, change-motivating communication dies.
But praise be to God! There’s a death that leads to life: “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).
If you want to experience God-honoring and other-loving interactions, we need to pray with David: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).
We need to pray for a clean heart that loves. A heart controlled by the love of Christ listens, reads, and reacts well. A heart ruled by sin carries hatred, chooses vengeance over mercy, and is more eager to blame than confess.
No wonder our interactions and reactions are so toxic!
When we cry out for help, God willingly hears and answers, greeting us with grace that is more than up to the task. His grace secures an eternal future when we will be free of this communication toxicity forever, but it also promises fresh starts, new beginnings, and better relationships today!
Paul David Tripp
1. Think about the last time you got into an argument or experienced relational conflict. Who, or what, was the first thing you blamed?
2. While other people and outside circumstances may have contributed to the conflict, how did your sinful heart prove to be your biggest problem and your biggest need?
3. Consider another recent argument, angry phone call, or regretful email or text exchange. If the love of Christ wasn’t controlling your reactions, what was? What were your motivations and desires?
4. How can you take practical steps towards productive, relationship-building, unity-producing communication this week? Be specific. Why will you need to ask the Spirit of God for help? What obstacles will get in the way of God-honoring, other-loving interactions and reactions?