Have you ever found yourself uninspired by the predictable conversation that typifies much of Christian interaction? As we relate with each other, we hope to be encouraged and directed in our pursuit of God. But too often, our speech gets bogged down by a lack of clarity; common phrases are thrown around without a clear sense of purpose. We can develop ways of talking about life that sound spiritual and roll off the tongue with little effort.
In some cases, the problem isn’t that our actual words don’t have value. We’re simply using them in situations where they aren’t helpful. Imagine that you’re dealing with some relationship difficulties. While you’re trying to figure out how to address the situation, someone pipes up, “I’m just so glad we’re all saved”. While it’s appropriate to find joy in our salvation, it’s not meaningful to mention it casually in the middle of a challenging situation. Instead, it almost makes light of something we should hold dearly. It would be more helpful to rejoice in our salvation when discussing difficult trials we’re going through. Instead of seeming trite, it will help us view our lives with an integrated, spiritual perspective.
Other times, we use phrases that have almost no meaning whatsoever. Were you ever blessed by someone saying “Let go and let God”? Or what about “When God closes a door, he opens a window”, or “You’re never more safe than when you’re in God’s will”, etc? Simple phrases like “bless this food to our bodies”, “traveling mercies”, “led by the Spirit”, and “hedge of protection” can be heavily overused. They are usually disconnected from any depth to the point we’d do well to think twice before using them.
Sometimes we fall back on these clichéd ways of talking because we aren’t engaging our minds. Perhaps we don’t have anything worth saying, so we resort to something that sounds good that doesn’t take any effort to produce. But sometimes we have good motives, only our speech doesn’t accurately convey our thoughts. In both cases, I think we’d do well to evaluate our speech, searching for Biblically-centered ways to be better equipped to exhort each other.
Jesus tells us to avoid vain repetition in our prayers. We are not imitate the heathen, who think they will be heard for their much speaking (Matthew 6:7). Clearly there is no value in the multiplicity of words. When we speak, are we merely giving lazy assent to an idea, without processing what we are saying? It is the quality of our words, particularly about our faith—not the quantity—that we should be concerned about.
How do we develop clichéd ways of talking? Some if it is laziness, no doubt. But just as often, I think we start out with something deep and meaningful, but repeat it without thought. When we see something jump out at us in Scripture, we’re excited; our thoughts are fresh and it’s easier to inspire others. But a few months later, when we try to talk about the same concept, it doesn’t go as well. It no longer seems so inspiring; our words come out canned and uninteresting. Why is this? Certainly it is no reflection on the Bible! There are verses that we know and love that should continue to encourage us after we’ve heard them for the thousandth time. This is right and good, of course. But if we aren’t actively meditating and searching out more of the Scriptures, we will lose this sense of vibrancy. Our minds will not be fully engaged in the love of God. Naturally then, when we speak, we’ll resort to words that don’t take as much thought.
Our speech cannot be edifying and Spirit-filled if our hearts are not actively devoted to loving God. There are many motivations and dynamics in our lives that we should be concerned about, outside of our speech. But I think we’d do well to pay close attention to our words. If you’re using lots of clichéd language, what is the cause? Perhaps you simply need to learn to communicate better. But perhaps your personal spiritual life is dry—maybe you’re not spending much time in the Word.
In Colossians, Paul encourages us to speak with grace, seasoned with salt. If we are going to be prepared to answer “every man”, we will need to put considerable thought and prayer into our speech. Not only will we be prepared to edify each other, but our own lives will be enriched and deepened. The more engrossed in the Word we are, guided by the Spirit, the more specific our thoughts and words can become.
I don’t want to suggest that common phrases can’t be repeated in a way that is heartfelt and genuine. But wouldn’t we be better able to edify each other if we learned to communicate more effectively? If we are learning things in our walk with God, what a blessing it would be if we could share in a more specific way that would help our friends to be inspired and challenged! While there is nothing wrong with saying “I’m blessed to see God working in my life”, it doesn’t give others a real glimpse into what God has been doing.
If we are truly growing in our intimacy with Christ, it will begin to directly affect our lives. Saying “I love the gospel” or “I’m so glad the Spirit is leading me” has no more weight than the testimony of the life behind those words. So if you love the gospel, why do you love the gospel? How is it changing your life today? It may be that you mean these things fervently when you say them. But give others more! Inspire them with something you’ve seen in the Word, or ways you see God changing your actions.
I believe we will be strengthened as we learn to share more specifically, making connections between big concepts and practical living. What a privilege to be able to genuinely express the deep joys and desires of our hearts! As we grow in edification, may our hearts be strengthened in our pursuit of God. Our words have great potential; let’s make them count!