Many of us have been trained to be polite.
And I suppose that most of the time that is a good thing, especially if that politeness is motivated by love. In others words it can be a good thing when we speak politely to others because we are motivated by a deep concern and affection for them.
Unfortunately, some of the time, maybe much of the time, I am afraid that isn’t what is motivating our politeness. Politeness can be a means of covering over a me-centered heart, it can be a means of manipulating others to get what you want, it can be a form of protecting yourself, it can be motivated more by self-love than biblical love.
I was reading Jay Adams book on Peacemaking recently and he makes the point there that one of the characteristics of a biblical peacemaker is that he knows how and when to be bold. That can definitely be a weakness for me. Bold. Speaking directly to a person face to face and saying words that they may not like to hear in a very straightforward manner because you are convinced that is what is most spiritually beneficial for them.
It’s pretty amazing all the ways selfishness can work its way into a person’s heart, that sometimes even nice, polite words are the work of a selfish spirit. This is one of the reasons I love Jesus so much. To finally meet a person who wasn’t using words to manipulate, but whose words were just right, motivated completely by a desire for the glory of God and the good of God’s people.
For some of us, speaking boldly and directly feels so difficult that we might think to ourselves we can’t do it. We might even say that’s not my personality. But if there are times where the most loving action is to be direct, then we simply can’t make this excuse. By God’s grace, we can speak the way God wants us to.
- We must rid ourselves of the lie that being thought of as nice is the same thing as being biblically loving.
2. We must remind ourselves of the truth that sometimes Jesus the perfect man spoke very directly and very specifically and in ways that modern people might find harsh.
3. We must remember the importance of gentleness, that the need to speak boldly is not the same as permission to stop giving a rip for people, but instead just the opposite, that sometimes boldness is needed because of love for people. When people are jumping off cliffs a polite maybe this isn’t a good idea is probably not the best option. However, though you may need to be bold, you aren’t simply being bold if you are being an obnoxious know it all jerk. There is a difference. Remember that being bold doesn’t mean you have the right to treat adults like little children who don’t know or understand everything you know or understand.
4. We must never forget that sin is real and sin is serious and that the consequences of sin are devastating. There is right and wrong and there is a place called hell. Life is not simply a tea party.
5. We must die to self and repent of using words to promote self and pray that God would help us to fear Him more than we fear people and their opinions of us.
6. We must see ourselves as servants of Jesus Christ and we must see our words as belonging to Him. One of the ways we must submit to the Lordship of Christ is in the way we speak to others.
7. We must carefully evaluate the situation we find ourselves in and the people we are speaking to. It is foolish to think that you speak to every single person you meet the exact same way. Are you speaking to a weak person, are you speaking to a bold person, are you speaking to an unruly person, are you speaking to a person who has enough information to process what you are saying, are you speaking to a person in a crisis or is the situation a bit more relaxed than that?
8. We must not shout where God whispers, but we dare not whisper where God shouts.
9. We must make sure we have properly understood what is actually happening before we start speaking too boldly. There’s nothing like a straight shooter who shoots at the wrong target. The funny thing about those gun slingers is that you can’t convince them they are not being biblically bold. You say to these guys that they are being a bit harsh or missing the actual point and they hear you telling them they need to compromise. What? That’s not what we are talking about. They can always excuse the way they speak by saying that hey, people can’t handle the truth. No bro, you are just a jerk and you are acting like you are such a truth teller but the truth you are telling isn’t even addressing the problem or argument the other person is experiencing.
10. We should be crying out to God continually as we speak that he would work in our hearts and cause us to be overwhelmed with a desire to make Him look great and a desire for the other person’s good and wisdom to know exactly how to pursue that with our words in that moment. We must shake off all forms of self-dependence in our speaking where we think we are capable of handling the situation on our own and recognize our deep need for God to take over and give us the strength to tame our tongue and speak in ways that honor Him.