Colossians 4:6, ESV
One of my greatest enjoyments as a pastor is doing premarital counseling. It is always fascinating to watch couples learn the unique and intricate details of their soon-to-be spouse. For me the most intriguing topic of counseling with couples is communication. Statistics show that marriages and relationships most often fail due to communication breakdowns. I also recently read a statistic that on average, large corporations spend about $60 million annually as a result of communication breakdowns.
Communication is more than just disseminating a message so that it is heard. Communication is about being understood. Maybe you or someone you know has said, “You are not hearing what I’m saying” or “You don’t understand me”. As I read this Scripture from Colossians, I have several thoughts regarding communication:
- What an awesome display we have of communication from God regarding the Gospel message! Throughout history we see the symbolism of redemption through Christ in the Old Testament sacrifices. We hear the echoes of the Old Testament prophets declaring what was to come. God has expressed himself in written word through Scripture, and displayed His glory through the person of Christ. Then we have such a vivid display of the cost of redemption and hope available to those who experience redemption through the brutal murder of Jesus. Christ appears to the disciples following His resurrection, again confirming the message of redemption. The Holy Spirit has come and confirms this work of Christ in us and empowers us to share the message of redemption with others. Again and again through every means possible, God is speaking about redemption—not just to be heard, but to be understood: not because of His need, but in response to our need.
- Secondly, our communication with others—our coworkers, family, spouse, children, etc.—ought to be reflective of God’s efforts in communicating with us. We should humbly assume the position of the servant, not to be heard, but to understand the needs of others. Paul’s admonishment was for us to understand others so we know how to answer. God fully understood our need for redemption. He not only understood, but responded as a servant, offering His only son to be our propitiation. Again, reflecting on the goal of communication: not that I may propagate my agenda, but rather serve others more effectively.
- Considering Paul’s writing, it becomes clear that the tendency of our communication is opposite of what it ought to be. Our carnal nature is self-seeking rather than desiring to understand others in order to answer appropriately. If communication was not a problem, Paul would not have addressed the issue. Everyone has different filters through which communication passes. These filters are based on past experiences, our childhood, environment, culture, and others. In order to truly understand another person, it is required that we lay aside our personal filters and have the right ears to hear. Repeatedly in Revelation, Jesus says, “To him who has ears, let him hear what the Spirit is saying…” Spiritually we recognize that not everyone has spiritual ears to hear. In the natural, communication is dependent upon hearing with the right ears and without our own set of filters.
John Calvin had this to say regarding Paul’s writing:
He requires suavity of speech, such as may allure the hearers by its profitableness, for he does not merely condemn communications that are openly wicked or impious, but also such as are worthless and idle. Hence he would have them seasoned with salt. Profane men have their seasonings of discourse, but he does not speak of them; nay more, as witticisms are insinuating, and for the most part procure favor, he indirectly prohibits believers from the practice and familiar use of them. For he reckons as tasteless everything that does not edify. The term grace is employed in the same sense, so as to be opposed to talkativeness, taunts, and all sorts of trifles which are either injurious or vain. The man who has accustomed himself to caution in his communications will not fall into many absurdities, into which talkative and prating persons fall into from time to time, but, by constant practice, will acquire for himself expertness in making proper and suitable replies; as, on the other hand, it must necessarily happen, that silly talkers expose themselves to derision whenever they are interrogated as to anything; and in this they pay the just punishment of their silly talkativeness. Nor does he merely say what, but also how, and not to all indiscriminately, but to every one. For this is not the least important part of prudence — to have due regard to individuals.
Luke 6:45 displays a picture of the origins of our communication. To truly understand what someone is communicating, is to understand the desires and intents of their heart. Likewise, those things we communicate to others paint a vivid picture of what is beneath the surface within the motives of our heart. Thus, our greatest ability to communicate with grace and with seasoning, is to allow the character of God and the Word of God to be indelibly written on our hearts according to Hebrews 8:10. This Scripture creates for me a mental picture of a wall around my heart—a wall of God’s Word. This wall filters out incoming words that contradict God’s Word, and also filters outgoing words that contradict God’s Word.
Today, as your “word meter” runs, and as you endeavor to communicate, ask the Holy Spirit to allow you to effectively use the “wall of the Word” around your heart so that you might humble yourself to truly understand those God has placed around you. Truly, we can display the glory of God in our communication by recognizing the needs of others.