Last night I was in a dinner conversation with some good friends. We came to a topic I’ve been chasing for years. After a thoughtful early exchange I soon took over with a history and Bible-waving rant. And only after my friends lassoed me and wrestled me to the ground did I realize I had been selfish … and what I shared hadn’t been the least bit helpful.
Let me underline the point. I wanted to be helpful but I was actually selfish. I thought I was offering my knowledge as a resource but I was actually thumping my own passions in order to satisfy my own sense of rightness. And everyone else at the table was left in the dust as I raced ahead without noticing they weren’t coming along. They weren’t being helped. And at least a couple were being hurt.
Later in the evening, now alone in my room, I looked back. With deep sadness. I had gotten out of hand—but why? Why had I ignored my friends’ hearts as I pressed ahead to make my flamboyant points?
I have an answer. I was pressing ahead with what I viewed as truth; but love wasn’t the motor of my sharing. The connection of always speaking “truth in love” had been broken.
That’s not to say my convictions have changed. I’m still confident that what I meant to share had real value. But the matter of valid insights isn’t more important than the issue of heart-devotion that carries words. At some point I switched from caring for my friends to caring for my point. And the two—the truth-value and the value of relationships—must never be separated. Not if we love each other. But the two had drifted apart in my words. And I was wrong.
The ministry I work with, Barnabas International, has a theme text for the year—1 Peter 4:7-11—and it bears on my reflections. Notice these segments especially: “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. … As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks the very words of God….”
So, how do any of us speak “the very words of God” today?
First, if what we share comes as part of God’s love for us—his grace—then we have the potential to offer that grace to others as we speak. We become stewards of his grace.
In other words love sets up a two-step process: we experience his gracious love moving our souls; and we then offer gracious words to others. At the start we love God because he first loved us. Then we love others as God calls us to love them by sharing what he’s doing in us.
Now, let me go back to the dinner gathering. I had reduced my thoughts to a single-step process. I took a big dose of knowledge and used it as a battering ram. Truth—including any elements of factual accuracy I might have to offer—hadn’t been communicated. Why not? Because I wasn’t embracing the Way, the Truth, and the Life in what I was saying. So what I offered instead was the stuff of sin—of my dismissing God’s communing presence as I spoke.
So now it’s time to consider a reversal of the order offered in our Bible verses. I violated the pathway of God’s grace. And now I need my friends to “keep loving me earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” And I’m sure they will because these friends know God’s words. And that his words express a love that brings healing.
On my part I need to return to God’s two-step process in my conversations. Only then will I again offer to others his words that carry love.