Just a few nights ago, the youth group from New Ulm was at our house with Pirates of the Caribbean on Netflix. I was sitting on the couch mildly watching Johnny Depp swing his sword around Orlando Bloom when I got a text message on my phone. It was from my wife – who was sitting about three people away. A few moments later I got a message from Mr. Steenbock, the youth leader – who was a bit farther away -- on a chair by our dining room table. In fact, throughout the night I got a few Facebook messages --- four email updates --- a comment on Instagram and even an attempted Skype chat.
Wow. We are connected. If you want to get ahold of someone nowadays, you can try Twitter, Facebook, Messenger, Snapchat, Instagram, Text Message, Email, Skype --- and even this crazy, old fashioned thing called a telephone. Have you heard of it?
Yet. In spite of how connected we are, Americans have trouble connecting.
You can misread tone in an email and get real upset at a your spouse who was sending you a lighthearted joke.
You can send an angry emoticon on accident to your child and he will respond with a very real, on purpose, emoji of an angry cat.
You can turn on the CAPS LOCK to get your point across and dampen your relationship with your sibling, because “WHY ARE YOU YELLING?”
The truth is that in spite of the new ways to connect – we still need to approach communication in the same way God commanded us to approach old fashioned, face-to-face conversation.
What is that command? Today we’re going to continue our Family Matters series on Communication by looking at what exactly God’s Word has to communicate to us about communication.
I. The Sinful Truth Behind BAD Communication
Take a look at Luke 6:28-29. These are the words of Jesus himself. He said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
That’s an awesome amount of love. Notice who it’s for. Do this for your enemies. Enemy means someone who hates you. Someone who’s against you. Someone who treats you really, really poorly. Someone who calls you “jerkface.” Someone who takes your toys away from you. Someone who spends the last of your budgeted money on something that you didn’t want to spend money on. Someone who yells at you, fights with you, and leaves you in tears.
Someone who might be in your family.
Isn’t that a sad truth? Yet it shouldn’t surprise us. After all, we are all sinners. We sin daily. We often sin much against those who are in close proximity.
It’s kinda like a sprinkler. It’s hot out now, so you might set up the sprinkler. But if you are mom or dad and cold, cold water doesn’t sound like something you want to get on your nice “hangout” clothes --- just set up shop outside the vicinity of the sprinklers’ range. Everything in range will get soaked. But you’ll be fine.
Unfortunately, its impossible for families to set up shop outside the radius of our own sin. The fact of the matter is that we will naturally get hit by our families over and over and over again. There’s no one you will sin against more than your own family – simply because you spend the most amount of time with your own family.
So how do you react? Jesus says, “With love. Treat them how you want to be treated.”
But our actions seemed to indicate that we have misread his words.
Our version is something more like this:
"Hold grudges against your enemies, say hateful things about those who hate you, 28 curse those who curse you, complain to your friends about your family who mistreats you. 29 If your brothers slaps you on one cheek, slap him back harder. If your sisters takes your coat (without asking first), tell her that she’s a “Brat.” Tell your children who asks you for something to “get a job – this is my money,” but if your wife takes the money that belongs to you, angrily demand it back! 31 Do to others as they have done to you.”
This is exactly what Esau did. Remember him from our Old Testament lesson? He had been looking forward for years to receive a special blessing from his father. He had been looking forward to the “birthright” which allow him special blessings as the first born son. When his father finally told him it was time for the ceremony, he went off into the woods to hunt for a delicious venison meal and spend some sentimental, quality time with his father.
When he came back after waiting in his tree stand, after quivering with excitement for this long awaited moment, after skinning the animal, preparing the meat and dreaming about the success that was due him, he found out that his brother had stolen it. Jacob had dressed up as Esau – taken advantage of his father – and stolen what was rightfully his!
Esau was ticked.
Verse 41 says that Esau held a grudge against Jacob. In fact, he immediately began denouncing his brother and decided the only action he could take wasn’t carefully, calmly expressing his pleasure. Esau didn’t write out a long letter venting his frustrations. He didn’t pray to God for help.
He threatened to murder him. “I’m doing to Jacob what he did to me.”
But that’s wrong. That is not how God wants us to communicate. Godly communication isn't selfish.
Godly communication is selfless.
II. Godly Communication
Look at Luke 6 again. It says, “Love your enemies.” Do you realize who is saying that? It’s Jesus Christ. He absolutely had enemies. The religious leaders of his day were so angry with him for calling them sinners and so jealous of him for all of the crowd following him that they planned on killing him. They arrested him. They threw him in prison. They told lies about him. They spoke badly about him. They convicted him of false wrong doing. They shouted – “Crucify him – Nail his body, hand and foot, to this big old piece of wood and let him hang there until he dies!” They ridiculed and mocked him – “You say that you’re the Son of God! I don’t know any Son of God that would hang up on a cross and die. You worthless worm – you disgust us!”
And Jesus’ response?
He spoke no ill will.
He didn’t curse them.
He didn’t even call them jerks!
He blessed them with final words of the Gospel. He prayed to the Father for their forgiveness. He turned his other cheek – and his other hand – and his other foot. He let them take his clothes. He gave them his blood and sweat and tears. He did to them, not like they did to him, but completely unlike how they treated him.
That’s God’s love. That’s selfless communication.
In fact, Psalm 103:10 says, “He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities...For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love.” He doesn’t speak as you deserve nor as you have spoken about him. He speaks to you with love.
He could call you sinner – instead he calls you forgiven.
He could call you enemy – instead he calls you friend.
He could call you brat – instead he calls you his child.
He could call you disgusting – instead he calls you righteous.
He could ignore you (just like we’ve done to him) – instead he is attentive to your every prayer.
He could shout at your to get far away from him and never return – instead he promises a home in heaven to which he will bring you when He does return.
This means that if you have been a poor, ungodly communicator in the past -- God has heard your cry for mercy. He sent his Son Jesus that you would be forgiven. By hearing that message and confessing your faith in it -- you are forgiven.
III. WHAT NOW?
Therefore, let’s learn from Jesus. May his love be a motivation and a guide for our communication in our families. A few quick notes from God’s Word:
One spouse says, “You spent $100 at Whole Foods on like, 11 items?”
The other spouse says, “Do you think I want to waste our money? I can’t believe you are so stingy.”
The original spouse says, “I didn’t say you were a money waster. Stop calling me a jerk. ”
The other spouse says, “I didn’t call you jerk. Stop calling me a name caller.”
And the rubber keeps bouncing back and forth, more and more quickly with each non-listening jab.
So try this: worry less about having others listen to you and worry more about how well you are listening to others. Be quiet. Listen. Repeat what they said. Ask questions about what they said. Learn about their fears, emotions, and anxieties, because then, you’ll know how to address them.
That’s exactly what God did. He heard your cry into eternity – “Lord, help me from my sins and my guilt.” God gave you exactly what you needed – a Savior, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for all of your sins.
(2) Build Up.
Ephesians 4:29 says this, Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building each other up.
Imagine that you bought a bookshelf at Walmart. It came in pieces and needed to be put together. Dad was going along and put in screw after screw after screw to hold it together. How helpful would it be to go behind him with your own screwdriver loosening and taking out every screw that he put in?
It wouldn’t be. That’s destructive.
It’s the same thing with our words. They can easily destroy – a wife’s confidence, a husband’s character, a brother’s good nature, a sister’s self-worth.
Stop destroying and start building. Look for ways this week to build up each member of your family.Go out of your way to tell them that you’re proud of them, to tell them that you think they’re beautiful, to tell them that you are praying for them. If you do that, you’re building. You’re building up and building up and building up with God’s help. There’s no telling how high it’ll go!
(3) Season with Salt
Colossians 4:6 says, “Fill you speech with grace, season it with salt.” Salt is important. It improves the taste of bland casserole. It makes brussel sprouts tolerable. It is the incredible key in making Doritos so awesome.
Grace is like salt. Phrases like “I love you,” “I forgive you” and “thank you” make any kind of message that much sweeter! It’s Politeness 101.
Use these words. Too often we leave that grace salt on the shelf and sprinkle those spicy four letter words into the conversation. Or we grab a pinch of pure insults and drop them in to get our way.
But you don’t need those things. You are God’s child! You are a part of the salt of the earth; let your language reflect it. Sprinkle words of grace into your conversation.
(4) Ask for God’s Help
Scripture talks about how the tongue is THE most powerful weapon of the body. Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names will never hurt me – is not remotely true at all. It can greatly harm someone.
So just like if you are picking up a samurai blade to slice off a piece of cheese, be very careful with what you say – you can easily do much more harm than good. Look at Psalm 103:4 it says, “Set a guard over my mouth; keep watch over my lips.”
We need God’s help. We need his help to muzzle our tongues from destructive talk and seasoning. Communicating our desire for his help will undoubtedly result in him sending his angels to guard our tongue -- and keep it safe from itself.
Can you imagine what it would be like to get stuck in the desert? (I know it's been hot in Raleigh, but at least the humidity means there's plenty of water in each faucet). If you were stuck in the desert, you'd start to fade. Your energy would evaporate. Your nutrients would disappear. All of your energy would be zapped. Even a glass of water would be a welcome sight!
Life can be kind of like a desert. Dealing with day to day stresses, disappointments, and struggles at work. You can be zapped of strength and out of energy. How do you deal?
Proverbs 10:20 says "The tongue of the righteous is a fountain of life."
Wouldn't it be nice if your family was a fountain of life?
A place where you get re-energized?
A spot where the words reinvigorate your soul?
The go-to area to receive the Word of Life itself and strengthen your faith in the LORD?
Be that fountain of life for your family.
Be strengthened by The Fountain of Life Himself.