A Failure to Communicate

 By: Zach Collins

Have you ever heard the story of the preacher who was trying to illustrate the ill effects of alcohol and tobacco? In one sermon, to illustrate this fact, a preacher decided to put a worm in some alcohol and a worm in a sealed jar of cigarette smoke. By the end of the lesson, the preacher showed the assembly that both the worm in the alcohol and the worm in the cigarette smoke were dead. So, to bring home the application in his sermon, the preacher decided to illicit a congregational response by asking the question, “Someone please tell me, what does this mean?” To which, a young boy replied, “If you drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes, you will not have worms.” 

We can all reasonably conclude that this was not the message that the preacher was trying to elucidate to the congregation. Nevertheless, in the response of this little boy, we see a common struggle in the church today, the ability to communicate.  

Though unintentional, I often find myself sticking the metaphorical “foot in my mouth”, not with the words that I use, but by the sentences that I form with those words. I suppose that it is just a characteristic that is innate to imperfect human beings. Peter often stuck his foot in his mouth. On one hand, Peter confessed Christ as “the son of the living God”, while on the other hand, he denied that Jesus would be resurrected from the dead (c.f., Matthew 16:16-23). In one statement, he blessed the Lord. In another statement, he offended the Lord. Could this be true of our communication with other Christians?

It might be the case that Christians will make declarations to other Christians that, on the surface, might be offensive or hurtful, but the motivation is the exact opposite. In simple terms, we often say things, and what is understood is exactly the opposite of the message that is being conveyed. If we listen to what people are saying, and not how they are saying it, we might see some truth in the message that is being delivered.  

Given this struggle, let me offer you the words of Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13:7, “Love… bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 

When you take offense at the words of others, remember the aforementioned words, for Christian love demands no less. Look inward at yourself before you look outward at others. Seek to understand the message they are trying to convey to understand a previously misunderstood aspect of yourself. It might be the case that they did not mean to offend you with the words they used but, unfortunately, formed those words in sentences that did offend. Miscommunication often stems from a misunderstanding. 

If we seek to understand others and are not quickly offended, it will keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace, and we will demonstrate the same kindness with which we desire to be treated. Meditate on these things.  

January 4th, 2024