How do you give grace to whoever you’re talking with?
This is the question that’s been circling inside since I preached on Ephesians 4.17-5.2 a couple of weeks back.
It’s a challenging passage. It draws a sharp line between our old identity — our old humanity, mangled as it is by our futile and corrupting desires — and the new identity we’re given in Christ — a humanity made new in the image of our Creator.
But one thing that really leapt out at me as I sat with this passage is the sheer emphasis on how we speak.
It’s there at every turn.
But it’s verse 29 that’s really got a grip on me:
Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.
So that your words may give grace to those who hear.
That is an amazing possibility. Isn’t it?
That the things that come out of our mouths could not only enrich, build up, comfort, encourage, advise — and all those other good human things.
But that we could somehow give grace to whoever you’re talking with.
Astonishing, right? It’s almost hard to picture how that could be.
Except that I’ve seen it.
At the 1 hour and 13 minute mark in this video, Australian evangelist John Chapman was asked if there was a period of his life he looked back on as the happiest.
I was in the room when this question was asked. And I remember the tremendous sense of gratitude that flooded me as it was asked: ‘That was such a kind thing to ask…’
I doubt there was a dry eye in the room by the time Chappo had finished answering.
That question gave grace to John Chapman — and to all of us who listened. Tangibly so.
It did this through it’s beautiful combination of specificity and other-centredness.
Specificity because it forced us to pay attention to particulars rather than just skate across the surface of generality.
Other-centredness because it wasn’t chiefly designed to wrest some wisdom for us from Chappo’s memories — although it did that in spades.
(In fact, this combination seems to be the key to all good questions.)
So it’s with that memory burning in my heart that I’m committing myself to learning to ask the kind of questions that give grace to those who hear.