Our level of discourse in our country worries me. When you turn on the TV or the radio or, heaven forbid, look on social media, you find name-calling and disdain that should offend us.
Words matter, and the tone we use to say those words matters. Our public discourse is so hardened, I turn the channel from cable news when my 2-year-old walks in the room. I have no idea what they are going to say or what she may hear. This year’s presidential election only made this worse.
The disappointing truth is there is no real difference between those who claim the name of Christ and those who don’t when it comes to television or social media and the things we say. Pastors and Christian leaders go on cable news and sound as hateful as all of the other guests. If they took their title off the screen, you never would know the difference. And with social media, we all have become cultural critics; we all can broadcast our opinions on politics and the news of the day.
Gracious, gentle speech
The Apostle Paul tells us in Colossians 4:6, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Is our speech gracious? Is it seasoned with the salt of the gospel?
In 1 Peter 3:15, we are told to be ready always to give an answer for the hope we have in Christ and to do so with “gentleness and respect.” When we speak the truth of God’s word, we should do so with gentleness and with respect for those to whom we are speaking. The way we as Christians talk should be completely different from the world.
Gentle and gracious talk is not weak. It is not waffling on the truth. To be gentle and gracious with our words, especially when speaking the truth, is to be like Christ. When we refuse to speak with condescending and self-righteous tones, we choose to be obedient to the commands of the New Testament, which call us to speak the truth in love with grace.
Don’t buy the lie
We don’t have to buy into the lie that the loudest person in the room is right. We don’t have to buy into the lie that to speak the truth means we speak with contempt and defensiveness. When we speak the truth of God in the public square, we should proclaim the truth of the gospel, and our conversations should be filled with joy and grace, hope and gentleness, love and respect.
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Most Christians would agree with this call. We should speak with graciousness and gentleness. Yet when we sign in to our social media accounts, we see the exact opposite. Many times, the way we talk on social media and the stories we share do not reflect the love of Jesus. Our posts and stories we share do not show graciousness.
Jump the disconnect
Why do we have this disconnect? One reason is we don’t have to look someone else in the eyes when we make that post on Facebook. We don’t have to see the emotional toll our harsh words have on someone else. As social media connects us superficially to other people, it disconnects us emotionally and relationally.
When we think about the words we say and the tone we use to say them, we must remember the Great Commandment given to us by Jesus. Do our words and the way we say those words show our love for God? Do our words and the way we say those words show our love for our neighbor?
What we say and how we say it matters. Jesus tells us in Matthew 12:34, “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”
What do your words and the way in which you say those words say about the state of your heart?
Zac Harrel is pastor of First Baptist Church in Gustine, Texas.