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Relational Wisdom REVISITED

July 1, 2019 | by: Scott Denny | 0 comments

relational-wisdomLast month at the Church Retreat, Dave Mikulsky lead us through a topical series on “Relational Wisdom” developed by Ken Sande with Peacemaker Ministries. The series provided those who attended with some very helpful tools to aide in better communication and conflict resolution. Unfortunately, we had technical difficulties recording the series. However, you can find all of the lectures and other resources by visiting RW360.org.

I’d like to use this article to supplement the “Relational Wisdom” series with some key truths from key biblical texts about biblical communication and conflict resolution. I want us to examine Four Biblical Truths about communication from Ephesians Chapter 4:25-32, and then we’ll take a look at Five Peacemaking Qualities from different texts that help us resolve conflicts.

FOUR BIBLICAL TRUTHS FOR COMMUNICATION

[25] Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. [26] Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, [27] and give no opportunity to the devil. [28] Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. [29] Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. [30] And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. [31] Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. [32] Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

In context, these verses are following Paul’s explicit detail about God’s plan of salvation in Chapters 1-3. He shares in Chapter 1, about all the blessings that we possess because we belong to Christ. In Chapter 2, he details the nature of our salvation is by the grace of God through faith in His Son without whom we’d all still be lost in our sins, and in the latter half of Chapter 2 into Chapter 3 he notes that both Jew and Gentile are united together as one new people of God.

scott-dennyAs he begins Chapter 4, he looks back to the truths of this gospel message and writes in verse 1 of Chapter 4, “Therefore…”  He now turns his attention to what the practical outworking of salvation should look like in our relationships with each other. He begins by urging the church to “be eager to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.” [1] He calls the church to pursue peace with each other, and he begins by emphasizing that kind of unity is maintained through the way and manner in which we relate to each other with our words.

Why begin here? Because our words can be used to destroy relationships or build up relationships. Our words are powerful, and we must take care in how we speak to one another.

I want us to consider 4 truths from this text as we reflect upon how we might develop biblical communication patterns with our spouses, our friends, our neighbors or whomever else the Lord puts in our paths.

First, our communication must be HONEST.

“[L]et each of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.” [2]

The text is obvious. There is no hidden meaning. We are to speak truthfully to one another. But I want to stress that speaking truthfully is more than just not lying. It involves speaking in ways with each other where we aren’t seeking to deceive, disguise, evade, or even exaggerate.

Most of us, myself included, may tend toward disguising, evading or even exaggerating the truth in order to deceive or cover up an offense or a perceived offense. We see examples of this kind of speech when Cain sought to evade God’s question about the location of his brother, and when Satan sought to deceive Eve by exaggerating the requirement of God to not eat from ‘any tree in the garden’. [3]

We are not only called to speak truth, but we are to do so in a way that communicates truth in love. Ephesians 4:15 notes that we are to be ‘speaking truth in love’ with each other. This quality is so important in our communication. Too often, I hear people say, “I’m just being honest,” as a way to justify harsh statements. To speak in a way that is truthful and loving requires thoughtfulness and wisdom.

“Be quick to listen. Slow to speak.” [4] We must know when to speak before we speak.

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” [5] We must use wisdom and learn that timing is everything when we speak.

“A soft answer turns away wrath.” [6] We must lovingly use wisdom rightly in order to preserve peace rather than to stir up trouble.

Second, our communication must be CURRENT – it must be timely.

“Be angry and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” [7]

What this text is not saying is that people should stay up all night to resolve a conflict. What it is saying is that we should be timely in our pursuit to make peace with each other. Failure to resolve problems in a timely manner can lead to bitterness, resentment or hatred. Failure to keep current also gives opportunity to the enemy who prowls around seeking to destroy relationships, [8] through lies [9] and temptations. [10]

So, beloved, it is so important to keep short accounts and to speak to one another about issues that trouble us.

Third, when communicating with each other and seeking to address a problem, we must do so in a way that BUILDS UP the person rather than tear them apart.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion that it may give grace to those who hear” [11]

I know for many of us this seems so obvious, but how many of us have spoken to our spouse, child, friend or co-worker in ways that pierce and cut and harm? I know I have. I know that I have done it intentionally.

We must avoid ‘corrupting’ or ‘unwholesome’ words. This is the same word in the Greek that Christ uses in Matthew 12:36 describing words that are ‘useless’ or ‘careless’ depending on your translation. The word in the Greek can also be used to describe rancid or rotten fish.

We must avoid words that grieve the Holy Spirit (verse 30).

We must avoid words that tear people down and destroy people. Referring to evil men, David says “They make their tongues sharp as a serpent’s, and under their lips is the venom of the asps.” [12]

We must avoid emotionally charged absolutes like always, never, and only, for example.

We must remember that our friend is not the enemy – sin is the enemy. There are always two sinners involved in communication, so we must take great care to use words that give grace.

We must use words that are “good for building up”.  These words are spoken in loving truth. These words are meant to help not to hinder. [13] These words seek to resolve a problem not stir one up. [14] These kinds of words seek the best for the person with whom you are speaking.

Fourth, in communication we must ACT in a manner that is consistent with who were are in Christ.  

We must reject the habits and behavior of our old self and put on the habits and behavior of someone who walks in a manner worthy of Christ. [15]

“Let all bitterness and wrath and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” [16]

Paul exhorts the church to put away certain kinds of actions with each other. He bids them to put aside:

  • Bitterness - holds the idea of wicked, pointed, sharp words.
  • Wrath – refers to fury, resentment and indignation.
  • Anger - suggests in the Greek violent eruptions and emotions.
  • Clamor – conveys the notions of harsh contentions and public quarrelling.  
  • Evil speaking – carries with it the notion of using words with the intention to harm or injure someone.
  • Malice – indicates a desire to cause someone to suffer. “He feels bad? Good!”

In the next breath he bids the church to:

  • Be kind – To be pleasant with others.
  • Tenderhearted – to be compassionate with others.
  • Forgiving – to give up a claim of revenge, hold a grudge or get even. In short to be gracious with others.

FIVE PEACEMAKING QUALITIES

This fourth facet of communication leads us into the Five Peacemaking Qualities we need to develop and exercise order to pursue peace with one another as Paul exhorts us toward in Ephesians 4:3.

First, we must be DILIGENT in this effort. Paul calls the church to ‘be eager to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.’ [17] Diligence in the pursuit of peace literally means to carry out something with a sense of urgency. We must be diligent to avoid things that foster disharmony, because any fool can start a quarrel. [18] Rather we must be diligent to foster those things that make for peace, because those who follow Christ are called to be peacemakers. [19]

Second, we must cultivate HUMILITY in our own lives as we seek to preserve peace with one another.  Christ calls us to first examine our own hearts – to remove the log from our own eye before we seek to speak with someone about an offense. [20] It is in humility where the Lord pours out his grace upon us as we move toward someone else in the pursuit of peace.

Third, we must approach one another with the HEART OF CHRIST in kindness, meekness, patience and love. [21] The Greek word here for meekness is used to describe a soothing gentle breeze. Picture the opposite in Ephesians 4:31 where we are called to put off anger, wrath, etc. Those words picture the storm of a tornado that comes out of someone’s mouth from which we cower and hide. A cool breeze we find refreshing and welcome. Cultivate a gentle spirit towards one another.

Fourth, we must CONFESS our sins to God and to each other. [22] It is in confession that we exalt the Lord and begin to make peace with others.

Fifth, we must FORGIVE one another as we have been forgiven. [23] God in Christ has forgiven us a debt we cannot repay. His forgiveness is free and complete. In Christ, He treats us as if we’ve never offended Him – though our sins are many. In Christ, He assures us that He ‘remembers our sins no more’, [24] which gives us confidence to live without guilt or shame. Therefore, forgiveness promises that just as we’ve been forgiven, we promise to do four things:

  • We promise not to dwell on the offense.
  • We promise not to bring it up to use it against someone later.
  • We promise not to talk about it with others.
  • We promise not to allow it to stand between you and the other person.

There are so many other things to say about communication and conflict resolution but this article must suffice for now. I would commend to the reader the following resources if you find that you would like to study this topic further.

RW360.org
The Peacemaker by Ken Sande
Peacemaking for Families by Ken Sande
Communication and Conflict Resolution by Stuart Scott
War of Words by Paul Tripp

Scott Denny is an Elder at Grace Bible Church.

  1. Ephesians 4:3
  2. Ephesians 4:25
  3. Genesis 4:9 and Genesis 3:1
  4. James 1:19
  5. Proverbs 10:19
  6. Proverbs 15:1
  7. Ephesians 4:26-27
  8. 1 Peter 5:8
  9. John 8:44
  10. Matthew 4:3
  11. Ephesians 4:29-30
  12. Psalm 140:3
  13. Colossians 4:6
  14. Proverbs 20:3
  15. Ephesians 4:22-24; Philippians 1:27
  16. Ephesians 4:31-32
  17. Ephesians 4:3
  18. Proverbs 20:3
  19. Matthew 5:9
  20. Matthew 7:5
  21. Colossians 3:12
  22. 1 John 1:9; Psalm 32; James 5:16
  23. Matthew 18:21-25; Ephesians 4:32
  24. Isaiah 43:25

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