August 2020 Tabletalk – “Christian Discourse”

TT-Aug-2020We are already over halfway through the month of August and that makes it overdue to introduce the August issue of Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries monthly devotional magazine.

The theme for this month is “Christian Discourse,” that is, how we as Christians must converse (carry on discourse) with others – with our fellow believers, including those of our own household, and with our unbelieving neighbors.

Burk Parsons gives his usual pithy summary of the subject (“Gentle Christian Discourse”), pointing out that

Elders, deacons, teachers, and all Christians are called to communicate with others in a charitable, gentle, and loving way. At the same time, we are called to speak the truth and to tell people hard things that they sometimes don’t want to hear. We are called to admonish, and we are commanded to go to our brother when he has sinned against us that he might have the opportunity to repent. Parents are called to train up their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Pastors are called to reprove, rebuke, and exhort. We are all called to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. Nevertheless, we must never forget that we are also called to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, speak the truth in love, and rebuke with patience. As Christians, we engage with other Christians in all of life, and as we do, we must strive to be humble, gentle, honest, and gracious. When we fail, we must be quick to repent, and we must all be quick to forgive and restore as we live in light of the gracious truth of the gospel coram Deo, before the face of God.

After that one paragraph, we already feel convinced of how relevant this matter is – and convicted of how miserable we fail to carry out truly Christian discourse.  But, there is a way forward, by the grace of God in Christ our Savior and by the power of the Holy Spirit He has given us. And with the Bible as our guide and goad, and the multitude of counselors with articles in this issue as our teachers, we can learn anew the way to speak to one another – from wife to co-worker.

One of the articles I read this past Sunday before service was especially helpful: “Truly Loving Discourse” by Dr. Jason K. Allen. Here is a section of it that strikes at the heart of what it means to practice biblical conversation with others:

One of Scripture’s most salient passages on the believer’s discourse is Proverbs 27:5–6, which states: “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” In short, verse 5 instructs us to speak words of biblical rebuke, whereas verse 6 encourages us to receive them. These two instructions are pointed, perhaps challenging your sensibilities or forcing you outside of your comfort zone.

Yet, for you to live a healthy Christian life and to enjoy healthy Christian community, you must practice both. To this end, consider four words of reflection from these verses to foster truly loving discourse.

First, speak the truth in love. The Apostle Paul issued these words of instruction to the church at Ephesus (Eph. 4:15). Yet, they are essential for us in modeling truly loving discourse. Note that there is peril in undercommunicating either truth or love. Truth without love may be harsh and will likely win no one. Love without truth is mush and will win them to nothing helpful. The goal of confrontation is restoration, not alienation. Truly loving discourse works toward that end. Moreover, you should ask yourself if you’re equipped to receive such counsel. Do your spouse, friends, minister, or colleagues sense such an openness from you? Cultivate it in yourself just as you desire it in others.

Second, root out passive-aggressive behavior. Passive aggressiveness imperils Christian communities. Families, churches, and Christian institutions collapse under its weight. Accumulated grievances and festering conflicts bring about a relational frigidness that will persist until an eruption occurs. Truly loving discourse actually engages in discourse, not insinuation or subtlety.

Third, be willing to confront sin. Proverbs 27:5–6 speaks precisely to this point, both in confronting and receiving confrontation. It is always right to warn the sinner of his ways—doubly so if he is a loved one. This is why Jesus instituted church discipline in Matthew 18. James 5:20 reminds us, “Whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”

Fourth, learn to pronounce the word “no.” For many Christians, pronouncing the word no doesn’t come naturally. Whether out of fear of disappointing others or a reluctance to be perceived in a negative light, many Christians simply can’t utter this word. However, a sign of Christian maturity is developing this ability. Invariably, loved ones will embark on a hazardous path or contemplate a dangerous decision. Your ability to lovingly pronounce the word no might be their salvation.

Last, remember, as Jesus said, the tongue speaks from the overflow of the heart (Luke 6:45). These verses remind us that our discourse—even our willingness to lovingly confront—indicates deeper spiritual realities within us. Thus, to practice truly loving discourse, you don’t need a more polished or polite tongue; you need a redeemed one.

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://cjts3rs.wordpress.com/2020/08/18/august-2020-tabletalk-christian-discourse/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: