It’s the way you tell them…

Somewhere in the dark recesses of my memory I hear an Irish comedian using that catchphrase…back when comedy used to be oh so simple…!

Last night I was reading through 1 Timothy and came across the following verse:

‘It’s true that moral guidance and counsel need to be given, but the way you say it and to whom you say it are as important as what you say.’ (1 Tim 1v8, The Message)

It made me stop and think for a couple of reasons – firstly that it’s very different to the other translations (which usually talk about the law being good if it’s used in the right way). I have to say I like the way Peterson looks at it…brings with it the inherent importance of how we communicate God’s love.

And that’s my second point. I had an email from someone yesterday with a sneering ‘these people died because they cursed God’ title…mostly a mixture of famous performers who at some stage in their life had been less than complimentary about God and had suffered painful and difficult deaths (because of their attitude, according to the email author!). The email was basically rejoicing in that…now, I have to say, call me a liberal but I’d struggle to rejoice in anyone’s painful death…

Obvious point coming…it seems to me that we have a message of grace, and therefore we should talk about it with grace. Not vindictiveness or cold arrogance but love…even for those who would throw it back in our face. I guess it comes back to the whole judging others thing – who are we to attempt to judge on behalf of God who or who isn’t in the club (faith!) ? I know I am probably too liberal in many things, but I’m just not sure that we’re (Christians) always the best judge of characters…perhaps we should leave that up to God. Yes, Christians need to tell the world exactly who God is and hold up his kingdom plan as an ideal for society to be based on…but we just don’t know everything…that’s God’s business.


7 thoughts on “It’s the way you tell them…

  1. I’d say that whilst I agree that we must communicate with grace, love etc, I don’t think Petersens translation catches the essence of this verse.

    The verse is talking about how the law it supposed to be used to bring conviction of sin…that is, afterall what the law was created for. It isn’t to be used as the Pharisees use it nor the Judaiser as a justification for righteousness.

    Paul is here advocating a proper use for the law. In the Psalms we read that the Law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul. Paul also said that the law showed him how sinful he was. It is supposed to act as a mirror. Consider the evangelistic method of Jesus as he speaks to the Woman at the Well and the Rich Young ruler…in both occassions Jesus uses an aspect of the law to bring conviction of sin.

    So, that as well as reading the verse in context in a proper translation (lol) shows us that its not really talking about communication at all, but application.

    yours primitivley,


  2. Oh…also…there is a difference between communicating with grace and having a message of grace.

    After all, God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. So, we communicate the weight of the law to the proud sinner to the point he is ready for the message of grace, communicating gracefully all the while :o)

    Martin, I’ve sent you a package to your home…it is a cure for Groaninzins Disease. I had to sell my camper to but this cure for you.

    Now, if that were true, you’d be thinking I was crazy. You’re sure you don’t have Groanzins Disease. So your response to that comment would be, ‘well, thanks, but I don’t really need it.’

    But if I write and tell you, Martin, I see ten symptoms of Groanzins Disease on your skin, its a deadly disease, your are going to die if you don’t have the cure, you are going to be begging for the cure.

    We expound the law as if to expound the symptoms, then the ‘sinner’ is ready for the cure.

  3. Hey Andrew! Good to see you back!

    You got me on the 1 Tim thing – lazy exposition is awful and I’m guilty here – just got caught up in what this version said and thought it said a lot.

    I know what you’re saying about the whole tell the people about the sin (ie convicting them that they’re sinners) but as I see it there is a slight flaw. You see, I would have to ask you what expertise you have to point these things out to me, and why I should believe your version of the truth. I could say that what you describe as Groanzins disease is acutally not that but something completely different, and something that I’m quite happy with.

    I think what I’m trying to say is that as a Christian I totally get what you’re saying, but the ‘law’ is utterly irrelevant to anyone who doesn’t believe in God. We can say their life is in a mess from the way we view it, but they may well tell you they’re very happy and indeed are.

    We can’t use ‘reason’ to persuade people that they need Christ. It’s not a scientific fact. 2+2 doesn’t equal 4 in the world of faith – so often we don’t have half of the equation but still need to trust in the answer.

    Just some thoughts…not heretical, I hope!

  4. This is a huge discussion, but a few separate points to chuck in:

    You are forgetting the Holy Spirit and you are forgetting the power of the conscience, a God created facility that enables people to respond to God’s law.

    How can you say the law is utterly irrelevant to anyone who doesn’t believe in God? That is unscriptural…in fact, as I said, you’ll find that the scripture says the law was created for such a person.

    If you’ve got dust on your living table, you might get a duster and clean can’t see it. But then, the sun shines through the window and all you can see is loads of dust in the air. The light hasn’t created the dust, it just exposes it. Its like opening the curtains of the Holy of Holies and letting the law of God shine on the sinners heart.

    If Groananzins is deadly, you can deny it all you like, but I know that its gonna kill you, so whether you believe my word or not, I’m going to keep communicating that to you until you own that disease. Its flawed logic to say that ‘Hey…I don’t believe I’ve got cancer…its probably just a cold!”

    Your doctor isn’t going to spend a year building a relationship with you so that he can pass on the heavy news of your impending death.

    Also, conversion can only happen, truly happen, when there is sorrow for sin, an understanding of transgression of God’s law (because thats what sin is). If we can’t get there with a person in faith dicussion, we are, in effect, getting nowhere.

    Also, the gospel isn’t about happiness, its about righteousness…an oft forgotten element of today’s false gospel.

    As for your last paragraph, thats heretical. :o) I know its trendy to be mystical, but its not an approach that Jesus nor the disciples took. There is a certain amount of knowing that one can do I know that? because it is God’s will that none should perish and he doesn’t desire to keep salvation a secret.

    yours primitively

  5. I think more and more, reason isn’t going to work. I’m 23 and many people around me are into post-modern thought. One of those thoughts, although heretical, is that there are no absolutes. Nothing is certain or set in concrete. Everything is made up of perceptions. With these thoughts, it becomes very difficult to convince someone that they are a sinner and need God. Besides, who is God and what is sin? These are questions that used to have obvious answers, but to many people today, it’s not so simple. Trying to use reason and rationale can sometimes be futile. Of course the Holy Spirit can convict people of sin, and needs to at some point, but it certainly doesn’t seem as simple as speaking and Holy Spirit convicting. I wish it were.
    Looking at the doctor ananlogy…I would be happy to accept a diagnosis from a doctor if I can see their qualifications on the wall. They are able to make diagnosis’ (judgements). I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’m qualified to make a diagnosis about the condition of someone’s life, and chances are they won’t accept it without something that says I know what I’m talking about… This is where relationship comes in. I think it is important to show people you know what you’re talking about through relationship. People need to see a life that is different..a life with God (the cure). ‘Show me, don’t just tell me’. This can only happen through genuine relationship.
    Sure, there are people who hear The Word and believe and the Holy Spirit convicts. But, especially amongst post-modernists, this must be backed up by relationship and evidence of a life with God and in receipt of his grace.

  6. Cheers for your comments, chaps! See the next post for a response, Andrew…in love – you know that don’t you? I value your friendship!

    Friendy, thanks for your words – I think we’re in the same place! Your words have expressed brilliantly stuff that I often can’t get across.

  7. friendy, a question to consider…. am i to understand that your intent with friendship is to use it as a tool with an end purpose? is that as manipulative as huilt or condemnation?

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