Friday, November 3, 2017

7 Questions to Nurture God-Honoring Conversations

Sticks and stone may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” I can still “see” Miss Farley preaching that with great emphasis to my 4th grade class. She’d raise her voice and shake her fist in the air as if she was beating this into our heads. I would look around the class wondering if other people were buying this; I certainly didn’t. Even as a 7-year-old, I knew that wasn’t true. I’d been on the harsh end of a few confrontations, in fact I can still ‘hear’ my class-mate John’s voice on the south side of Edison School playground calling me a name. I’m sure you can relate to being on both sides of conversations and conflicts like this. When you’ve said some hurtful words to another person, do you ever wish for “a do-over”? I have many times.

I’d like to offer the following seven questions to help us plan ahead so that we can be more likely to offer 
“words that build up and not tear down.” Perhaps you can share them with your children or grandchildren and begin training little minds with a different way to approach others who may disagree with them. Maybe we might learn to model this in the process.

1. Am I willing to pray first?    Pray for a Christ-like attitude. Eph. 4 begins with Paul’s urging to live and act in Christ-like humility and gentleness. If you notice, this is the first application of the life-changing power of the Gospel as revealed in chapters 1-3. This also is the beginning of a very practical treatise of how to live in harmonious human relationships. Notice the practical commands and heart-attitudes in chapter 4 alone. Pray for God’s help Pr. 3:5b says we are to acknowledge God in everything we do. John 14:13-14 says, “13Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” Pray, believing that God will in fact give you all you need to think and act in a way that will please Him.
2. Am I fostering a “Log-hunting” mentality? Jesus, in Matt. 7:5, commands us to “first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” The clear implication is that individual who fails to “log-hunt” is unable to see clearly regarding any imperfections in another person. “Log-hunting” is clearly one of the most important elements in redeeming conflict.
3. Am I sure that I have the facts right? Pr. 18:13 says that a person who makes statements or comes to conclusions before having the facts is a shameful fool. Make sure that you understand both sides of an issue before coming to conclusions. Always encourage yourself and others to take personal responsibility to respond with godly attitudes and responses, regardless of other’s failures. 
4. Should love cover? 1 Pet. 4:8 says that “love covers a multitude of sins.” When you are sinned against, meditate on the immense amounts of mercy that God has given you each day before responding to others. Christ-exalting love will choose mercy first and be willing to overlook many offenses. Pray for wisdom to know when love should speak and when love should cover. Thankfully, God does not confront us about our every single sin; if he did, we wouldn’t survive.
5. Is my timing wise? If a conversation is necessary, Pr. 15:11 describes the effects of words offered at the right time and the right way. The KJV version puts it this way, “A word fitly spoken [is like] apples of gold in pictures of silver.” You’ve no doubt heard true words that were spoken at an inappropriate time; these words can be very painful and debilitating. 
6. Is my attitude right? Eph. 4:15 says that the goal or our words should be to strengthen or build up the other person’s soul. Truth can be spoken in such a way that actually harms or discourages another person. Truthful words without grace is painful at best, and is often hurtful and harmful.
7. Are my words loving? Eph. 4:15 says that our words should be motivated out of love for the other person. “Love is contra-conditional, other-focused, selfless giving (in this case, the giving of words), for the eternal good of the other person, to the end that God is glorified.”

Kent Kloter

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