As most readers will know, our minister experienced a major bereavement in early May with the loss of his mother, so to relieve him of one task at this difficult time I’m writing this month’s message.
This month we remember the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, ten days after the risen Jesus ascended to heaven. It’s struck me how much the Spirit’s work is to do with speaking – not just speaking in tongues as the apostles experienced, but also the gifts of the Spirit include prophecy and words of wisdom and knowledge, and also teaching and encouraging. So let me share with you an expanded version of something I spoke about in the Deacons’ Meeting a couple of months ago, about our speaking together.
It is just this simple idea that comes in this expanded version from material we recently saw on the internet: when you are going to speak, THINK. That gives us five questions!
First of all, is it TRUE? Quite obviously as Christians who follow the one who called himself “the way, the truth and the life” we would not want to pass on something which is false – but we need to be sure also that we’re not just saying something that is opinion, speculation or rumour as though it were true. That way, without our realising it, lies gossip!
Secondly, is it HELPFUL? Will what we say to someone else make a positive difference for them or for the wider situation – or might it instead be destructive of someone’s feelings or cause trouble? Unless we are sure what we say is going to be helpful, we should be very careful.
Thirdly, is it INSPIRING? Will our remarks energise the person we are talking to or the situation into which we are speaking? Will it make them feel better about themselves, their actions and especially their service for the Lord, and so encourage them to keep going, perhaps when things are feeling difficult? One of my favourite New Testament characters is Barnabas – the “Son of encouragement”. Let’s all aim to be “people of encouragement.”
Next, is it NECESSARY? Having said all that, sometimes being truthful and realistic means we feel we should say something which feels negative to a brother or sister in Christ, or to a friend, colleague or family member. We should be cautious about any such conversation, but occasionally something has to be said – the classic example is telling a child, perhaps sharply, not to touch something dangerous. But if something is negative, we should be very sure it’s necessary before we say it.
Lastly, is it KIND? This is more about how we say things – we are called to “speak
the truth in love” (not just “I have to say this in Christian love…” as a wrapper for
unkindness!). And the proverb that more flies are caught with honey than
vinegar reflects the Biblical truth that “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a
harsh word stirs up anger.” (Prov. 15:1) If what we want to say is unkind or the
manner is unkind, we should be very careful about speaking.
I’d personally want to add one more question – another “T” – is it TIMELY? In other words, have we chosen the best time to say something? The thought behind this is
that, even if we do feel that something negative is necessary and we know how to say it as kindly as possible, Sunday morning is not really a good time.
Before the service people are preparing to worship God and after the service an inappropriate word can undo what God has just done in someone’s life. It’s difficult,
when that’s when we meet most often, but do keep Sunday for worship and upbuilding fellowship!
Why am I writing this? It’s not because of any specific incidents in ABC, let me
make that clear. But over fifty years’ experience as a church member and a
pastor means that I am well aware that ANY church is made up of human beings
with faults! – and I fully understand James’s comments in the third chapter of his
letter, that the tongue needs taming. Well, here’s a good tool to help that
process if we really want our speech to be godly and Spirit-inspired – before we