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11 August 2008

Choosing Our Words Wisely

"As the Scriptures say, 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.' So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish." (1 Corinthians 1:19-20, NLT)

"Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone." (Colossians 4:5-6, NLT)

"Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy. Don’t throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you." (Matthew 7:6, NLT)

I think that I've always married these verses in my head (sure, I listed three verses -- but you know what I mean). I don't think of non-believers as pigs, but I do believe that because of the work of the Holy Spirit in my life, I perceive a lot of things differently from the way a non-believer does. I realize this when I speak to people about their situations and about what God's done in my life. I've found that when I talk to people who aren't Christ-followers, it's fairly infrequent that my natural tendency is to say, "The Bible says..."

Does this mean I'm gun-shy? I don't think so. In spite of the fact that I said I believed it, it took me many years to realize that the Word of God is actually meant to apply directly to my relationship with God and my life and how I relate to people -- the whole lot of it. I've seen that relatively few Christ-followers actually "get it" early in life. So when I speak with a non-believer, I start with the assumption that, while they mean everything to me (apologies if I've just invoked an old Ralph Carmichael song in your head... Here's a link to a slow-loading page devoted to the song, bad MIDI file and all), the Scriptures mean almost nothing substantial to the non-believer.

Is this a safe assumption?

Does such an assumption mean I abandon the Word when I speak with a non-believer? Of course not (The Word of God had better be a part of the fabric of my life). It does mean, though, that I have to be absolutely certain that I'm living out the life with Christ that I claim I espouse -- that "fabric of my life" thing. Otherwise I'm a living example that the Word of God just doesn't work -- that it's essentially worthless.

At times the direct approach is going to be perfect. At times it's going to come off as more of an assault. This is yet another example that being armed with knowledge is not always enough. Our knowledge must continually be used in conjunction with wisdom that God will give (James 1:5). I could probably sit and spout verses and opinions to someone for a very long time, but I may be saying a lot of stuff that the listener doesn't need to hear.

Agree? Disagree?

4 comments:

Leroy said...

As Christian we don't have an "on/off" switch when it comes to using the Bible's wisdom or not using the Bible's wisdom. Sometimes we choose to do just that though. I'm an avid believer that we should live Monday-Saturday the way we do on Sunday. Woo-hoo!! I used the word avid in a sentence!!

But we do need to be aware of our audience when we speak to them and realize that the Bible may not mean a thing to them. As such, we should "season" our words with the wisdom that you mention.

I think that's pretty much a paraphrase of what you said. Since that's the case, I guess I just wasted a few bytes of someone's hard-drive space. Heh, heh, heh...

Preston said...

I think of how Jesus related to people through the use of parables. If we think about it, Jesus use of scripture was really limited and it really only occurs when he is speaking to the Pharisees or when he is fulfilling a prophecy. I am intrigued by Jesus' use of parables as I think it relates to peoples common sense and it works its convictions straight to peoples heart in a natural sense. I struggle with how we as Christians can evangelize through the use of parables and see if we make a greater impact on our world. Just a thought.

BTW - I used the word "intrigued" in a sentence!

Anonymous said...

I've yet to apologize for wearing my wedding band or say I'm sorry for showing someone a picture of my wife. When Peter addressed the leaders in the Sandhedrin he tells them, "For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." And again Paul writes to the Church in Corinth, "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those are perishing, but to those who are being saved it is the power of God." Non-Christians will not get it, good people will not understand, many theologians will stumble at His word. Whether or not you say, "The Bible says..." the Living Word dwells in your heart! You will not be able to help it! Yet there is that nagging underlying feeling of, "Are they tired of hearing me talk about the many ways that God has worked in my life?" I'm very sure that the Non-Christian will walk away thinking (both positively and negatively) about the joy that you have the peace that he/she just can't place. O, the wonderful working of the Holy Spirit and the effectual calling of God! "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase." ~Paul to the Corinthians. There is no need to apologize for the joy that we share in Christ Jesus.

Dean Lusk said...

"Yet there is that nagging underlying feeling of, 'Are they tired of hearing me talk about the many ways that God has worked in my life?' I'm very sure that the Non-Christian will walk away thinking (both positively and negatively) about the joy that you have the peace that he/she just can't place... There is no need to apologize for the joy that we share in Christ Jesus."

I totally agree. I was a little wary of sounding like I'm afraid of, or apprehensive about, talking about Christ to people. That's not the case. I just find that I choose my words differently for believers and non-believers.

Preston's note about parables makes a very compelling point. Jesus spoke Scriptures to those who knew them and claimed to live by them.

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