Bruce Grice – June 24, 2007
*John Naisbitt opens his popular book Megatrends with a chapter on our society’s explosive
“megashift” from an industrial to an information society. The communication technology
available for the sharing of information is almost magical. When President Lincoln was shot,
Naisbitt says, it was five days before London heard the news.
When President Reagan was shot, a journalist working within a block o the shooting
heard about it quickly – by telephone from his editor in London, who had just seen film of the
assassination attempt on British television.
Even in our Communication Age, we sometimes forget just how powerful words are. (On
Sunday evenings in June our focus has been on “Building Strong Families.”
Tonight, “Effective Communications.”)
“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but,
I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”
Words are more than just the passage of air over vibrating vocal cords.
Words are incredibly potent. The ancient Proverbs of Israel recognized
this fact about three thousand years ago:
The tongue has the power of life and death … (Proverbs 18:21)
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (15:1)
Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. (Proverbs 12:18)
The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. (Proverbs 15:4)
What you can do for another person in three words or less is amazing:
I apologize. That’s beautiful. Good job. Please forgive me. I love you.
Words do not have to be eloquent or multi-syllabic to be heart-healing & life changing.
Words are powerful.
*There is an old African legend about a chief who had to test the wisdom of a young man he had
chosen as his successor. So he devised a strange test. “Prepare me two meals, one with the best
ingredients available & one with the worst,” he said. And so the young man did. The day came
& the chief was served a plate of succulent sliced cow tongue with vegetables. It was excellent,
& after the meal, the chief asked the young man why he chose tongue. He replied, “The tongue
is one of our best parts. It can speak words of truth, bring healing, comfort, give courage … It
can speak of love, harmony, & actually hold our village together.” The chief was impressed. He
waited eagerly for the next meal. On the day it was to be served, the young man came into the
hut & handed the chief a plate full of the exact same food. He ate it, then asked, “Why did you
fix the same meal?” Without hesitating, the young man said, “It’s true that the tongue can be the
best part of us, but it can also be the worst. It can rip people apart … It can spread lies, deceit,
slander, & it has the power to destroy our families & our tribe.” The old chief nodded his head.
He had chosen a wise man.
The tongue has the power of life and death … (Proverbs 18:21)
~ Let’s engage in a little personal checkup tonight & look at our tongue.
A. We begin by looking at One who respected the power of words.
One who used them simply & masterfully.
It was said of Him, even by His enemies: “No man ever spoke like this man” (John 7:46).
There was something wonderfully uncommon about the way He spoke to people – not just to the
multitudes, but one-to-one. And there was something absolutely unprecedented about the
way He spoke of God & to God.
In Ephesians 4:15, the Apostle Paul gives us a good clue, as he offers this high communication
standard … speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into
Him who is the Head, that is, Christ.
Speaking the truth in love.
~ That simple phrase houses what may be the two noblest qualities of communication.
*What John Powell was describing when he wrote in his book
The Secret of Staying in Love: “The genius of communication is the ability to be both totally
honest & totally kind at the same time.”
Speaking the Truth: Honesty
B. One study found that some people tell as many as fifty lies a day.
Think about some people’s favorite un-truths:
“I’ll get right on it.” “I was only kidding.” “No, you didn’t wake me up.”
Honesty is essential to healthy living – healthy communication, healthy relationships, healthy faith.
C. Jesus knew of our need to hear the truth – about God, about life, about ourselves.
1. A characteristic phrase of His was “Verily, verily,” which can also be translated as “I tell you
the truth.” Honesty was so much a part of His character & mission that He even made this
astounding claim: “I am the truth” (John 14:6). Jesus was truth with skin, bones, & muscle.
~ Truth is to humans as a greenhouse is to beautiful flowers …
the best environment for growth & health.
~ Human relationships were not designed to work correctly with deceit, any more than an
automobile was meant to run on tap-water.
~ God created us to “walk in the light, as He is in the light,” (1st John 1:7).
~ Only in the light, in an environment of truth, will we grow & flourish.
The Truth in Love: Kindness
Verbal violence, the ancient proverbs say, pierces the soul & crushes the spirit.
It quenches our joy, brutalizes our self-image, & forms calluses on our heart.
But a kind word heals the heart. It lifts the spirit.
*Garrison Keillor on “Prairie Home Companion” once told about a couple in his fictitious
hometown of Lake Wobegon, named Florian & Myrtle Kresbach. The Kresbachs are so
predictable that every Friday night of their married life, Myrtle has served the same meal:
breaded fish fillets. But every Friday, Florian takes that first bite, savors it, & says, “Ah, that’s
the best you ever did.” And he finds something different to compliment, something he hadn’t
noticed about her breaded fish fillets over the past forty-seven years, which comes to
almost twenty-five hundred servings of breaded fish fillets.
That’s a kind word, and we all need it. Jesus knew that we can hear the truth best when it is
communicated with an ample amount of kindness & love.
When truth wears combat boots, look out!
We can state facts that are absolutely irrefutable, but if we speak them harshly or self-
righteously, we will do ourselves nor the other person much good at all.
Put another way … If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love,
I am a noisy gong or a clanging symbol. (1st Cor. 13:1)
This morning we saw Jesus speaking the truth in love. Put yourself in the woman’s place.
1. Your life has been pretty much a disappointment.
2. You married but found no love there, so now you’re having an affair.
This is wrong, & you know it.
~ One day you’re with your lover in the secret place where you meet, & all of a sudden
everything goes crazy! The door bursts open, men are dragging you from your bed, they rush
you out into the street, to the temple courtyard, & throw you in a heap
at the feet of some judge for sentencing.
~ Your humiliation is beyond words. You want to die. And you may get your wish, for the old
law stipulates that an adulteress can be taken outside the city & stoned until she is dead.
~ But wait … the judge is speaking to your accusers, not about your sins but about theirs. Then
they begin to leave, until now only you & the judge remain.
~ He stands up & looks right at you.
He doesn’t look at you as most men do …
but His look contains concern, compassion, even pain over your humiliation.
~ Somehow His look conveys dignity to you, even in this most
Jesus spoke the truth to her that day: Leave your life of sin.
You don’t have to go on living this way … your lifestyle is wrong.
He didn’t sugarcoat His words.
No, the marriage vow is sacred, a pledge before God; to break it is sin.
Jesus spoke the truth in love. He addressed her with respect & concern.
He extended grace to her when no one else would.
~ Did she change, become His follower? The Bible doesn’t say.
But she never had a better chance to change than that day, when Jesus spoke the truth to her, in
love. … speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head,
that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4:15)
What are some rules for effective communication?
Rule #1: Allow Enough Time
*A man stood silently with his son, daughter-in-law, & three grandchildren looking over the rim
of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River in Arizona. Instead of being lost in the beauty his
surroundings, he found himself thinking about something else altogether. He pondered his
marriage, the birth of his children, & now being a part of the growth & development of his
grandchildren. Finally his thoughts turned to the scene before them, & he marveled at the
incredible beauty of this national treasure.He thought of the countless years required to form
such a magnificent creation -all of it taking place without a sense of hurry or urgency.
He whispered thoughtfully, “Good things take time.”
~ Things of beauty usually do take time: the Grand Canyon,
great families, & effective communication.
~ Set aside some time each day to talk with your spouse.
~ Designate a mealtime as a time for sharing. Sometimes that may mean eating dinner at 5:00,
other times at 6:30, but it’s worth juggling the schedule to keep in touch with day-to-day
happenings in each others’ lives.
~ Keep a family diary or journal. As you go about your daily life, write down stories & incidents
that happen in your family.
~ On New Year’s Eve, stroll through the previous year’s calendar together as a family,
remembering special events & family happenings.
Rule #1: Allow Enough Time
Rule #2: Listen
Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry (James 1:19)
“You have two ears & one mouth. Listen twice as much as you speak.”
One of the greatest gifts you can give to your spouse & your child is the gift of listening.
Listening is a gift of spiritual significance that you can learn to give to other people.
In Proverbs we read:
The hearing ear and the seeing eye – the Lord has made both of them. (Proverbs 20:12)
2. When you listen to others, you give them a sense of importance, hope,
& love that they may not receive any other way.
Listening is more than just hearing what someone else is saying.
Often what people share is more than just what they say.
Listening requires an openness to whatever is being shared:
feelings, attitudes, concerns, as well as words.
Listening means putting yourself in a position to respond to whatever is being shared with you.
~ Listening is an expression of love.
*A man was backing his car out of the garage & heard a snap.
He stopped & discovered his favorite fishing pole had been left behind the car.
It now was in two pieces. He walked into the house & asked, “Who was using my fishing pole?”
“I was, Dad,” his five-year-old son said. “I was playing with it & set it against the garage door.
I forgot to put it away.“ The dad realized it must have fallen down behind the car. He wasn’t
pleased, but neither was he going to cry over spilled milk – or broken poles.
“Thank you for telling me,” he said quietly & went back to the car.
He didn’t think much more of it, but two days later, his wife told him that when she & their son
were at the store, he said, “Mom, I’ve got to buy Dad a new fishing pole. I broke his other one.
Here’s my money.” And he handed her his savings of two dollars. “That’s nice of you to offer,”
she said. “But you don’t have to do that.” “I want to, Mom,” he said.
“I found out that Dad loves me more than he loves his fishing pole.”
~ When people know you hear them, they will trust you & feel safe with you.
~ And if you are a good listener, other people will be more apt to invite you into their lives.
*“Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to
weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff & grain
together; certain that a faithful hand will take & sift them, keeping what is worth keeping, and
then with the breath of kindness, blow the rest away.”
~ English novelist, Dinah Maria Craik
No put downs, no acting superior towards your spouse.
Instead, listen. Get inside their world. Understand that when two people disagree on an issue, it
is not always because one person is right & the other wrong. It is more likely due to the fact
that the two people come from different worlds, with different perspectives.
And when conflicts arise, deal with them quickly … and deal with one issue at a time.
Effective communication is found in speaking the truth in love.
Where do words of honesty & love come from?
The Bible teaches that the primary communication organ is the heart.
Not the lips or the tongue, but the heart:
… For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks … For by your words you will be
acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned. (Matthew 12:34, 37)
In this Communication Age of ours, we need more than ever a speech teacher.
But even more fundamentally, we need a heart changer.
All the speech courses & communication books in the world will not cleanse
the human heart; only a Redeemer can do that.
~ So we look to God’s finest communicator, His living Word to us.
~ Jesus is the Supreme Speech Teacher, the only One who was ever totally honest & totally kind
at the same time, all the time.
~ But He is first of all the Redeemer, the Heart Changer, who wants to give us both the power &
the grace we need to “speak the truth in love.”