Have you ever met a christian who was less than exemplary? Of course you have, and so have I. In fact, there have been many times in my life that I have been less than exemplary. When we are with a self-righteous, moralistic believer or a self-indulgent, immoral believer we all feel the effects of their spirit on our own. Those kind of attitudes repel people. But, let’s not be to harsh on others, because which one of us have not also been guilt of one or both of those extremes? We have all repelled others by a wrong spirit or wrong attitude.
It is important as a Jesus-follower, that we keep ourselves aware of our own attitudes. How are we being perceived? How is the tone of my words being received? Am I saying something necessary or unnecessary? Am I speaking with a right heart and a right attitude? These are all important questions to ask ourselves, and even give permission to the people closest to us to speak into our lives on this subject.
Most preachers recognize that their audience does not always receive their words in the way the preacher meant for them to be received. The more you talk, the risk of being misunderstood by an audience gets greater and greater. What’s the solution? Should we stop talking in an attempt to reduce this risk? No and no. While being misunderstood is a problem for pastors, it is also a problem for every believer. Remember, every believer is meant to be a preacher of the gospel. We must not shy away from communicating God’s grace for fear of being misunderstood. It is our responsibility to boldly proclaim the gospel of Jesus. However, I think there is a greater problem than being misunderstood. The bigger problem is when we say something wrong or say something true in a wrong way. We can’t stop people from misunderstanding or misinterpreting our message, but we do have control over how we intend to communicate. Our words matter, but the tone of our words might matter more.
We should speak with a tone of love. If we speak truth without love, we turn people off from the truth. in other words, it would have been more helpful for us to remain silent than to open our mouths to communicate truth in a way that is unloving. If we speak the truth without love as believers, we are misrepresenting our Saviour. Someone will no doubt remind me of Jesus overturning the tables and say something about “Jesus’ tone was more than likely not very loving”, and I would concede on that point. However, let me remind you that you and I are not Jesus, and we are instructed us to speak the truth in love and to be wise as serpents but harmless as doves. Furthermore, I would argue that the overall tenor of Jesus’ ministry was clearly both truth and love. We must not allow ourselves to hold on to our naturally unloving attitudes or justify our harsh tones that cause us to misrepresent Jesus in this world.
We must take a hard look at our own words and attitudes and ask ourselves, “how are people perceiving my spirit/attitude?” Of course, we Jesus-followers don’t live for the approval of our peers, but we live to honor our God. Isn’t it important then, that we would humbly ask ourselves and continue to check our own spirit?