The church is not perfect, and you’ll never hear me say that it is. In recognizing areas of weakness in the church, it only confirms that the Bride of Christ needs her Bridegroom to clothe her in garments of purity- because on her own, she doesn’t deserve to wear white. But while the church is not perfect, it is beautiful. When Christians apply the difficult commands of scripture we live in the reality of “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
One such area where we must seek purity is in how we use our words. Our church has been incredibly blessed with relational health, greatly due to the fact that the leadership and many others are committed to using life-giving words. Sure, we all say that we want to refrain from gossip, slander, and words that wound… but what does that really look like?
A couple years ago, this Communication Covenant was posted in the women’s restroom for any woman to sign:
I make this commitment for God’s glory and with the desire that I grow in Christlikeness. I pray that as a result of this Covenant, unity within the Body of Christ at our church will abound.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, I will strive to fulfill the following:
- You can take my words at face value. You don’t have to read between the lines. I will not “drop hints” or make you have to second guess what I’m saying.
- I will not give information about you to someone else, except words that are true AND words that will build you up.
- I will not give you sensitive information about anyone else without their permission.
- I will not listen to hurtful information about you if someone else is speaking it.
- If there is a problem between us, I will tell you. You don’t have to wonder. You can trust that I will be honest with you.
- You can come to me when I have wronged you. Please do it with gentleness and when you do I will strive to be gracious.
- If you have also signed this Communication Covenant, you have permission to hold me accountable to these standards.
Father, because of Christ, You no longer require that I bring You the sacrifices of animals (Ephesians 5:1-2). So out of my love for You, I shall bring you something more costly- the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart (Psalm 19:14). Help me bring to You the sacrifice of “the fruit of my lips” (Hosea 14:2, Hebrews 13:15).
Nearly 50 women have pledged to abide by these principles, all of which give form to scriptural mandates. Incredibly, this has become a living document for our church. We reference it when we stop short in the middle of a story about a friend, saying that we need to check with her to see if what we are about to share is public information. We self-report when we have violated one of the above points, which paves the way for trust to rebuild quickly. I rarely have a thought of “I wonder if I’ve done something to make her mad” when I friend brushes past me without saying hello. Instead, I think, “Nah. If she has something against me, I know she’ll come and tell me.” It makes for great mental peace and thriving relational health among the members of our church.
When there is a situation where the principles of the Covenant are not honored, I am amazed at the amount of pain and ugly that flow from those misplaced or hurtful words. Always, there are people wounded and entangled who are disconnected from the original issue. And what could have been resolved by going directly to the person with whom you had the issue, now takes hours of conversation with everyone who received the sensitive or distorted information.
The Covenant rules out those hurtful “drive by” confrontations: “You-haven’t-returned-that-$20-you-owe-me-and-I’m-angry-but-I-don’t-want-to-talk-about-it.” It prohibits anonymous confrontations, like writing a letter to another woman about how she was inappropriately dressed but not signing your name. It puts the smack-down on those “prayer requests” that divulge new information about others under the guise of concern. These examples are the way of cowards. God calls us to have the difficult but life-giving conversation honestly, face-to-face, with humility, every time. Christians, if you are doing it any other way, don’t delude yourself into thinking that you are in “God’s will.”
If you are under Christ’s Lordship, your words must be transformed by His trustworthy precepts. Unity of Spirit is the goal, and we are to make every effort to achieve it. (Ephesians 4:3)
For more on this topic, see Communication Principles