Speaking redemptively is all about choosing our
words carefully. It is about the words we say, and the words we have
chosen not to say. Speaking redemptively is about being prepared to
say the right thing at the right moment and exercising self-control.
Speaking redemptively is refusing to let our talk be driven by
passion and personal desire but communicating instead with God's
purposes in view. It is exercising the faith needed to be part of
what God is doing at the moment.
"You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do
not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one
another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command:
'Love your neighbor as yourself.' If you keep on biting and
devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each
other" (Gal 5:13-15).
This passage tells us that the opposite of
serving in love is not merely a lack of love and a lack of service,
but an active indulging in the sinful nature! Either I am living as
a servant of the Lord and accepting his call to serve those around
me or I am living to gratify the cravings of the sinful nature and
expecting others to satisfy those cravings as well.
When a desire for a certain thing replaces love
for God as the controlling force in my heart, the result will be
conflict in my relationships. But love for God that makes me want to
keep his law will always result in practical love toward my
neighbor. Thus, speaking redemptively is not a superficial matter of
choosing the right vocabulary, but a fundamental heart commitment to
choose words that promote God's work in a particular situation.
Remember, speaking redemptively does not mean we
ignore the practical concerns of life. We cannot, because we will
encounter them every day. Rather, speaking redemptively speaks to
these concerns in a way that promotes the interests of the King.
Here are some ways to do just that.
Recognize the war within. The war within
our hearts is the conflict, the basis of every other war we
battle. We should never give in to thinking that our primary battle
is with flesh and blood (see Eph 6:10-12), as if our husband, wife,
parent, child, brother, sister, or friend were the enemy.
There is only one enemy who wants us to forget
the real battle and to give in to the desires of the sinful nature.
We defeat the work of this enemy when we speak out of an active
awareness of the real spiritual war within. To forget the presence
and power of indwelling sin will immediately lead to problems in our
Purpose never to give in to the sin nature
while speaking. When something goes wrong, we may desire to
assess blame, to separate ourselves from responsibility, to rehearse
all the other times this person failed us, to share the failure of
this person with another, or to have that person hurt as we hurt. We
may feel jealousy, bitterness, hatred, or rage.
Speaking redemptively means saying "No" to any
communication that would flow from these desires. Speaking
redemptively does not start with examining the situation, the needs
of the person(s) with whom we need to talk, or even the relevant
Scripture passages. Speaking redemptively begins with self-examination.
Speak only in accordance with the Spirit's
ongoing work in people. As a Christian, the most important thing
in my life is the completion of God's work in me and others, to the
praise of his glory. I never want to obstruct what he is doing as
Redeemer in the little moments of life. I recognize that ultimately
those moments do not belong to me but to him. They are the workroom
in which he does his work of sanctification. My job is to be a
usable instrument in his redeeming hands. Any time I speak out of my
own sinful desires, I am communicating in a way that is contrary to
what the Spirit is seeking to produce in me.
Examine how the fruit of the sin nature is
present in your talk. I must be willing to examine my talk with
the mirror of the Word of God. So I look for words of envy,
jealousy, pride, anger, rage, malice, hatred, selfishness,
self-righteousness, self-protection, and defensiveness. I look for
words that evidence impatience, irritation, a lack of forgiveness,
unkindness, or a lack of gentleness. I look for talk that is coarse
And I do this with joy, realizing that because of
the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, I do not have to live
under the control of the sinful nature (Ro 8:5-11)
Have a restorative view of relationships.
"Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual
should restore him gently" (Gal 6:1). Here, Paul is talking about
all of us this side of glory. We get "caught" in anger, pride,
self-pity, envy, vengeance, self-righteousness, bitterness, lust,
selfishness, fear, and disbelief. And either we don't know that we
are caught or we don't know how to extricate ourselves. Until that
day when we are with Christ forever, we need to recognize that as
sinners, we need one another.
Paul then says, "You who are spiritual should
restore him gently." When we are "keeping in step with the Spirit"
(Gal 5:25), we position ourselves to be one of these restorers.
Speaking redemptively means letting this restoration agenda direct
We are all tempted to think that our
relationships belong to us; we tend to view other people as our
possessions. We judge people according to the way they respond to us
and affect us. We look for proper respect, love, appreciation,
acceptance, and honor, and we find it very hard to continue in
relationships where those things do not exist.
Paul is calling us to something radically
different here: the fundamental recognition that our relationships
do not belong to us but to God. Once we begin to think of our
relationships this way, we begin to see the need for restoration all
around us. When you're on a vacation and the children are quarreling
in the back seat, you can respond as an irritated parent whose
children are robbing him of his vacation dreams, or you can respond
as a restorer who wants to be a tool in the hands of the great
When husbands and wives disagree over the same
old stuff once again, they need to do more than curse the fact that
their marriage doesn't work or that the other person never has a
clue. They need to discover where they are "caught" and they need to
respond to one another, not with a demand agenda, but with a
restoration agenda. The greatest work of human relationships is not
the pursuit of human happiness but reconciliation to God and
restoration to the image of his Son.
Speak with humility and gentleness. Harsh
or prideful talk in the face of another's weakness, temptation, and
sin simply contradicts the message of the gospel.
Gentleness should be our natural response when we
see a brother or sister ensnared in sin; except for God's grace, we
would be where they are. We can be gentle because we have given up
any hope that human pressure, power, or logic can change the heart.
It is never the loudness of our voice, the power of our words, the
drama of the moment, the creativity of our illustrations, the
strength of our vocabulary, the specter of our threats, or the
grandeur of our gestures that causes a turning within people.
As we all struggle with the reality of remaining
sin, it is vital that our communication mirror the compelling love
of Christ. Gentle talk does not come from a person who is angry and
looking to settle a score. It comes from the person who is speaking
not because of what he wants from you but what he wants for you. I
speak to you, not because your sin has affected me, but because it
has ensnared you. Gentleness flows from knowing where our power
lies. Jesus is our only argument, our only hope. He alone is able to
change our hearts. We want to talk in such a way that draws people
to hope in him.
Practice other-centered living and
other-centered communication. "Carry each other's burdens." How
do we apply this to our communication?
When we see someone struggling with weakness, we
point him to the strength he has in Christ. When someone is
ignorant, we speak to her with wisdom-giving words of truth. When
someone is fearful, we talk of the God who is an ever-present help
in trouble. When someone grieves, we seek to bring words of comfort.
When another is discouraged, we seek to bring words of hope. When
they're feeling alone, we greet them with expressions of our love
and Christ's presence. When they're angry, we point to a God of
righteousness, vengeance, and justice. When they're engaged in
conflict, we speak to them as peacemakers and reconcilers. When
they're anxious, we point to the Sabbath of rest that Christ has
given his children.
Speaking redemptively means choosing our words
carefully and well. What radical revival, reconciliation, and
restoration would result in our churches, homes, and friendships if
we carried this call into every relationship and every situation!
How different things would be if we were consistently committed to
How important it is for us to choose our words
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