How to Speak about Others Who Offend You

angry young woman with megaphone shouting at stressed scared man blown away by wave of alphabet letters

It is said of the virtuous woman that “the teaching of kindness is on her tongue” (Prov. 31:26).

We are always giving instruction to others by the words we use–especially in the training of our children. A unique challenge occurs when we’ve been offended by someone.

How we talk about that person speaks volumes to others–especially the kiddos.

The apostle Paul gives us the ultimate standard for a tongue of kindness:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such is as good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear (Eph. 4:29).

I came across a powerful example of this in D. A. Carson’s book about his Dad–Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson.

It seems that at one point in his ministry, Pastor Tom Carson experienced a painful conflict with another pastor who treated him quite poorly.

As son Don relates the story, he only learned of the conflict years later. When he eventually brought the matter up, he quizzed his dad about why he never told the kids about any of it.

Tom explained that both he and his wife, Marge, wanted to protect their own souls from bitterness. So they took a vow that neither would ever say an unkind thing about the other pastor–and they kept that vow!

Daughter Joyce commented:

As I look back on life with Mom and Dad, perhaps the one thing I recall most vividly is the memory I don’t have. Try as I might, I cannot recollect one time when either of them spoke negatively about another person. Although Mom was an extremely astute judge of character, her analyses were well seasoned with grace and the latent potential for redemption (60).

What kind of talk comes out of your mouth in a conflict? Is it corrupt or kind? Does it tear down or build up? Does it give grief or grace to those who hear–especially the most impressionable?

The next time you are tempted to speak critically of someone else, choose the teaching of kindness on your tongue–void of bitterness, well seasoned with grace, and born of the latent potential for redemption.

Question: How would your children or friends describe your speech about others with which you are at odds?

The Power of Kindness


I finished my day today with a visit to my atheist friend’s house in our neighborhood. Regretfully his wife is dying. Cancer has overrun her body, particularly her brain. Stupid disease. The extended family has camped out for the duration. Hospice has coached all concerned about what to expect. Her body is shutting down. It’s only a matter of time. Once again the the specter of death haunts my 2014, though not at my own doorstep in this particular situation. Sigh.

My wife found me a card this morning to express our sentiments. A small potted plant seemed an inadequate but at least well-meant token to present at the door. For thirty minutes I sat with my buddy with whom I have had numerous conversations about the gospel, at least to this point to no avail, along with his son, and just sought to be kind in loving my neighbor as myself and feeling the weight of their grief. At this point, having said just about all I think I can say in numerous lunches, I am banking on the power of kindness to carry the day in my relationship with this man, whether he ever believes in Jesus or not.

The apostle Paul extols the virtues of love in his well-known treatise on the subject in 1 Corinthians 13. As he begins to describe its qualities, he leads off in v. 4 this way: “Love is patient and kind.” While it seems some in my profession can occasionally forget it, and Lord knows I admit my share of failures in this regard, kindness as a virtue simply must characterize any pastor’s way of relating with others at every turn. Consider 2 Tim. 2:24 – “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone.” My sincere apologies to every one of you whom I have failed over the years in this respect.

As I was reading this evening a section of Alexander Strauch’s book, Leading with Love, I came across this illustration of the power of kindness. It comes from the life of St. Augustine who, in his book Confessions, testifies to the impact, even in his unconverted days, of the kindness shown him by the renowned preacher and bishop, Ambrose:

300px-Augustine_of_HippoThat “man of God” received me like a father and expressed pleasure at my coming with a kindness most fitting in a bishop. I began to like him, at first indeed not as a teacher of the truth, for I had absolutely no confidence in your Church, but as a human being who was kind to me (Strauch, 2006, 45).

My dear friend has little to no confidence in my church, that is to say, our beliefs. I pray his confidence in my feeble attempts at kindness may one day lead to an Augustine-like transformation in his life.

Someone has said “kindness is love in work clothes.” Let’s get to work.



What's a Reformed Church Like Ours Doing Washing Cars this Saturday?

Good question. Let me explain.

Some folks at lunch today asked me how I was doing. As usual, my response included my assessment of the state of affairs in my church. I told them how excited I was about the rewording of our mission/vision/values verbiage to make things more memorable and catalytic to our fellowship. So I laid the BRIDE acrostic on them and quickly rattled off what each of those letters stands for in the way we want to accomplish our mission.

Lately we’ve been making a big deal out of the “B” for “Bridge Building.”  That’s our metaphor for crossing over into the community with acts of mercy and kindness a la the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. The intent is to let our light shine via good works in such a way that the unbelieving world will see our good works and so glorify our Father in heaven (Matt. 5:16).

Ray Lau in our church came up with the brilliant idea of hosting a free car wash at our office this Saturday, Nov. 21, from 10 AM to 1 PM. Last Saturday a bunch of us canvased homes around our property giving out fliers advertising the event and inviting people to come. We are praying that the Lord will work to bring a number of our neighbors to our door step so we might serve them in love and build bridges into their lives for the gospel.

KindnessSome years ago,  Cincinnati pastor Steve Sjogren wrote a book called Conspiracy of Kindness, (Servant Publications, 1993, 236 pages). In it he tells a boatload of stories about how his church penetrated their geographical area with all sorts of creative servant evangelism projects. Inevitably that led to sharing the gospel with people time and time again.

He writes:

In a society where other forms of sharing the gospel often meet with a great deal of resistance–one which feels it’s heard too much “God-talk” and not seen enough “God-activity”–servant evangelism seems to be a fruitful way for Christians to share God’s love with their community. Our experience in Cincinnati has shown us that evangelism must contain the right words, but that those words must follow the demonstration of the love of God (p. 22).

Now I don’t think that is always true. Nor does the author. He allows for the utility of other approaches to sharing the gospel. God uses all kinds of things to reach all kinds of people.

But he does have a point. That was reinforced for me last Saturday when another little ditty from the Ticked Off section of the paper caught my eye. I have to stop reading that stuff! Someone vented their displeasure at the number of people knocking on his door at all hours of the day on Saturdays to tell him about  God.

In our day of postmodern skepticism in a post-Christian world, it seems to me that it is more important than ever to work at building relationships with nonbelievers and showing them the love of God in acts of kindness on the way to telling them the gospel of Christ that can save their souls.

That’s why our Reformed church is venturing out this Saturday to wash cars, for free. We want to build bridges into our community to be a blessing. We want to be the gospel so we can share the gospel.

So far about ten folks have volunteered to participate in all aspects of the outreach. We need about twenty.

What are you doing from 10 to 1 this Saturday? If you can help, let Ray know ASAP. And by all means, pray. Pray that God allows us to build bridges for the gospel by washing cars for His glory and their joy.