Christian communication—What are the keys?

God created men and women to communicate with Him and with each other. He created us in such a way that we are constantly communicating, even when we are not speaking. The intricate anatomical structures which make such communication possible are simply amazing. We are truly fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).

Perhaps not surprisingly, it is Jesus, our Savior who took on human flesh and died for our sins that we might be saved and restored to relationship with God and one another, who reveals to us the first key to Christian communication. Whereas we might imagine that the key to Christian communication resides in our mouths (speaking) or ears (listening), Jesus reveals that the key to communication is found deeper, in the heart.

In Matthew 12:33-35 Jesus says, "Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil." Jesus teaches us that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks, meaning that the words that come out of our mouths are ultimately a reflection of what is in our hearts.

Yet it is in our heart condition that we encounter our first challenge to Christian communication. We are all born with a sin nature (Romans 3:23; 5:12; 6:23) and therefore our hearts are inherently corrupt (Jeremiah 17:9). Bad hearts produce bad communication. Thankfully, the Spirit of God removes our corrupt unbelieving hearts and replaces them with hearts that believe in Christ and desire to obey God (Ezekiel 11:19-20). As such, Christ becomes our mediator, the peacemaker between God and us (Romans 5:6-12; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Because of Christ, we can come before God in prayer, trusting that He hears us and responds to us (Hebrews 4:14-16; Matthew 6:7-13; John 15:7-8). The Holy Spirit also enables us to live as Christ lived. As we grow in faith, we become more and more like Christ; we are actually made new (2 Corinthians 5:17). This newness affects not only our relationship with God, but the way we interact with one another (Colossians 3; Galatians 6).

It is the Spirit of God who changes our hearts and therefore the Holy Spirit is the master key to Christian communication. We cannot communicate as Christians without a heart transplant, and it is the Spirit of God who performs the surgery.

Before we had the Spirit, our communication was the product of our sin nature, which is referred to in Scripture as "the flesh" (Galatians 5:19-24). Communication produced by the flesh includes, among other sins: lying, hatred, divisions, greed, selfishness, and sexual immorality. The unregenerate man uses the natural gifts given by God to communicate blasphemy and profanity.

On the contrary, in a Christian, the Spirit changes the condition and disposition of the heart resulting in godly communication. Christian communication is produced by the Spirit and is motivated by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

These attributes describe the work of the Spirit and the way in which Christ Himself communicated. In order for our communication to be Christian, it must resemble the communication of Christ Himself.

So, how did Christ communicate?

1) Jesus communicated with the Father early and often through prayer (Mark 1:35). Often the reason our communication with others is so poor is because we have spent little time communicating with God.

2) Jesus communicated truth. Jesus not only spoke the truth, but He is the truth. Further, He promised that the Holy Spirit would reveal the truth to us (John 16:13) and He has commanded us to share that truth with others. We are to spread the word about who He is and teach others to observe what He has commanded (Matthew 28:18-20).

3) Jesus communicated out of compassion and love. Jesus was "full of grace and truth," including in His speech. His communication was motivated by a deep concern for the spiritual well-being of His audience (Matthew 9:36). He had some harsh words for groups like the Pharisees, but even that was motivated by love (John 3:16-17; 13:34-35; Ephesians 5:2; 1 John 4:7-12). He had compassion for and prayed for the very people who persecuted and crucified Him (Luke 23:34a). Ephesians 4:15 tells us to speak the truth in love.

4) Jesus communicated with humility. Pride is one of the greatest stumbling blocks to Christian communication. Pride will keep us from confessing our sins to God and to one another. Pride will cause our communication to be haughty and selfish, when it should be humble and sacrificial. Instead of communicating from an attitude of pride, we are called to imitate the humility of Christ (Philippians 2:1-11).

These are just a few examples of how Christ communicated. If we want to know why and how to communicate as Christians, we can do no better than to look to and imitate the example of Christ Himself.

The following are some practical exhortations from Scripture on how we are to communicate as Christians.

1) Do not take the Lord's name in vain, but praise Him instead (Exodus 20:7; Psalm 150).

2) Do not lie or bear false witness, but speak the truth instead (Exodus 20:16; Ephesians 4:15).

3) Do not be profane or unwholesome, but be gracious instead, speaking things that build up (Ephesians 4:29).

4) Do not grumble or complain, but give thanks instead (Philippians 2:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:18).

5) Do not gossip, but build each other up instead (1 Timothy 5:13; Ephesians 4:29).

6) Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry (James 1:19).

We cannot communicate in a Christ-like manner in our own power (John 15:5). We are dependent on the power of Christ and His Spirit to do so (Philippians 2:13). We do and will fail (Romans 7:19; James 3:2; 1 John 1:8). When we fail, we confess our sins and ask God to fill us with the Spirit, renew our hearts, and enable us to persevere as He has promised He will do (1 John 1:9; Psalm 51:10; Philippians 1:6). As the great communicator Winston Churchill said we "never, never, never give up!"

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