Are you ever hungry for a good conversation? For a meal of rich ideas and strong values?
If you answer yes I’m with you! And if you find yourself turning to books, crossword puzzles, or stacking pennies for lack of good dialog then you’ll catch the point of the question.
But first let’s acknowledge the obvious: we’re almost always immersed in words. Voices—both from people and devices—fill most open spaces in life.
But not all words and settings have the same weight or value. Words at work, for instance, are more practical—managing change, weighing options, building skills, or correcting mistakes. Television dramas, coffee klatches, radio talk shows, gossip sessions, and church home groups all represent word venues, but they aren’t equal. And few of these satisfy the soul with good.
So the “good” in “good conversations” is our operative word. And making assessments—citing the good, bad, or indifferent—calls for a reliable measure.
For Christians God is the ultimate measure of a good conversation.
Think about it. Every human exchange points back to our creation in God’s image—to the eternal communion of the Father, Son, and Spirit. We exist only because of a conversation that began, “Let us make man …”
Yet our daily exchanges tend to be spiritually quiet. Call it the stifling effect of secularity. But God still invites us to build every conversation around him: to “do all to the glory of God.” The Father, we recall, gives us the Son as his “word” and Jesus, in turn, defined believers as those who trust his words. So, too, God—who “alone” is good—sets that standard. And by that measure every good conversation looks back to God.
Of course for critics this claim amounts to nonsense. Good conversations are hardly limited to Christians!
And at first glance that seems credible. So a sympathetic response by many Christians is to divide life. To swing between the secular and sacred—so that the working week offers one world and Sundays offer another. Conversations, in other words, can be spiritually neutral.
Yet there’s a serious integrity problem here. A healthy faith—with God’s love at its core—will always be steady and strong. And, with that, it will deny any premise that God can be dismissed from life and the conversations of life at any point.
So let’s look for a biblical approach to good conversations. As starters we need to engage God’s Spirit and God’s providence.
The Spirit is God’s bonding presence—his living “seal”—who defines authentic Christianity. And he communicates—“pours out”—God’s love as he resides in every Christian heart. His presence, in turn, so shapes the believer’s soul that a family likeness forms—showing God’s love—and other believers are able to see this and link up.
The Spirit’s life in a believer is always signaled by a love of God for God’s sake. Which is to say, he gives us our proper focus in life! And this guarantees good conversations among all who share that love!
So for believers who are maturing there will be a joy in speaking of their life in Christ with each other. Paul’s summary of his ministry in Ephesus—in Acts 20—captures this sort of dramatic spiritual energy. And Paul’s reflection on the shared status of all humanity—being “dead in our trespasses and sins”—points to the sole alternative. Conversations, in other words, operate in the context of God’s life; or they serve as extensions of spiritual death.
Providence offers the second feature in good conversations. In Colossians 1 Paul tells us about Jesus. Among an extraordinary set of claims about Jesus Paul concludes by stating that, “all things were created through him and for him.” Which is to say that every feature of biology, history, anthropology, sociology, theology, housekeeping, bookkeeping, beekeeping—and more—all share Christ as their ultimate context!
Of course not too many people will see it that way, and I’m not suggesting that we start by barging into a conversation with this claim. But as a Christian I must have it in mind as the background of all I say and do.
Consider, for instance, how Jesus started in his earthly ministry—it should tease our own imaginations. He showed that waters, storms, illnesses, and opposed spiritual forces were all realms he was happy to engage. Why? Because everything in space and time belongs to him; and he is happy to make that connection in whatever he said and did. And so should we.
Paul understood all this. And he reminded readers in Romans 1 that fallen humanity won’t be easily convinced. Humans, from Adam’s first claim of independence and onward, have always sought to “suppress the truth”—but “while claiming to be wise, they became fools.” So we aren’t naïve about the resistance our secular friends and family will offer. But love isn’t easily silenced!
Which brings us back to the Spirit’s ministry in us. As we respond to his shared love; and we talk with each other about loving God for God’s sake; and then we love the world with God’s love; what might happen?
What is sure to happen is that we’ll discover the adventure of living in God’s gracious and surprising providence. We begin to see how he draws and captures hearts once ruled by a vain and painful vision of independence.
And, as believers, if the Spirit is our shared coach and companion will we ever run out of things to explore? Will we ever stop enjoying life lived with Christ’s point of view? Maybe not!
Let’s at least talk about it—and maybe grow our conversational skills in the process.
Really appreciated this, Ron. For much of my own Christian life, I did exactly what you describe here—made an imaginary separation between the “spiritual” and the “secular.” The more I’ve grown to know and love God by reading the Bible and sharing the stuff of life with Him, the more I see how truly ridiculous the prospect of separating life in that way is! Now my heart longs speak of Him and of life with Him, and I long to know others who feel the same way. I also smiled when I read the sentence about never running out of things to explore. It made me think of my daughter whose curiosity about God and about every possible topic in life can never be exhausted! I can learn a lot from her! This was a real encouragement. Thanks.
Thanks, Gretchen. I’m glad to hear of your daughter’s life as an illustration: God’s ways really are intriguing and captivating once we have eyes to see.