Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Speaking as a Christian...

The Bible has A LOT to say about the way we speak. In fact, one could probably argue that the way we speak should be one of the primary differences marking out those who believe in Christ.

How then should we speak? I was thinking about three recent experiences lately, about Christians talking about how to talk.

1. One of my professors from college once decided that he was no longer going to tell people he was proud of them. Instead, he would say that he was humbled by what they had been able to accomplish. Interesting. Pride, of course, is a sin. And though we all sort of know that we mean it in a good way, and not a self exalting way, still we should ask, why are we using the language of vice to express a virtue?

2. Christians often talk about Jesus coming and turning the accepted world of social norms upside down. N.T. Wright suggests that we instead recognize that it is the unbelieving world which has turned everything upside down, and Jesus came to turn it back right-side up. This flows into the third one...

3. A friend of mine used to often express the Christians sojourn in this world as being "in the enemy camp." I once suggested to him that perhaps we should say instead that the enemy is in our camp. After all, this is my father's world, "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof." Why give away the whole thing to unbelievers?

Simple suggestions like these about the way we speak are important. As my rhetorically inclined brother will no doubt attest, the way we use language not only expresses a worldview, it shapes and creates a worldview. Speaking as a Christian means finding simple ways to create and maintain a Christian point of view in an increasingly upside down world.


Ken said...

Another suggestion.

As a pastor, I want to encourage people in their service within the church and often thank them. But D.A. Carson helped me to see that Paul's language in the epistles is usually, "I thank the Lord because of you."

So, when it doesn't sound too contrived, I try to encourage people not by saying "thank you" -- but by expressing to them a thankfulness for how I see the Lord at work in and/or through them.

This keeps the focus on the Lord and our service to Him (I hope).


Anonymous said...

Augustine on rhetoric:

For since through the art of rhetoric both truth and falsehood are pleaded, who would be so bold as to say that against falsehood, truth ought to stand unarmed, so that, forsooth, those who attempt to plead false causes know from the beginning how to make their audience well-disposed, attentive, and docile, while the others remain ignorant of it; so that the former utter their lies concisely, clearly, with the appearance of truth, and the latter state the truth in such a way that is wearisome to listen to, not clear to understand, and finally, not pleasant to believe . . . ."

Augustine, De Doctrina Christiana

Your Rhetorically Inclined brother