There are two bible scriptures that come to mind when I think about what I’m hoping to do when witnessing the gospel: “Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth” 1 Corinthians 8:1 and “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” James 1:19.
These are two of the many reminders in the Bible that caution us on our understanding of God’s word and our interaction with our brethren in the faith, as well as those who may not be well versed in the word of God. Do you ever find yourself talking to an unsaved family member or cool coworker who’s not very religious and you are doing way more talking than listening?
What about the conversation with the fellow believer who has an opinion opposite yours? Do you overly dominate the discussion with a barrage of your knowledge of scripture? I will be the first to admit that I’ve been guilty of this a lot in the past, especially very early in my walk. I was so excited that I was learning what I understood to be the only truth for man on the entire planet that when I talked to someone, if they didn’t understand what I was saying, I was willing to talk their ear off for five hours straight until they got it.
My zeal never allowed me to realize that they still didn’t get it no matter how many words I spewed out in one conversation. These days I am much better at conversing about the word of God but at times I still have to reign in my passion to expound for the sake of the person I’m talking to. What I’ve come to learn, brothers and sisters, is that it is not the amount of words that causes a person to take heed to the gospel. It is simply the truth that pricks a willing heart that causes someone to consider and repent before God.
There is another text that comes to mind which is one of my favorites in the Old Testament. “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear” Proverbs 25:11-12. His wisdom teaches us that it’s not about how much you speak but what you speak and when. I’d rather have a ten minute conversation where I listen to a brother for at least half that time and then respond based on God’s word addressing exactly what he is relating to me.
Also, when it comes to situations where someone may have to be rebuked for a wrong, your screaming or long lecture isn’t what’s going to cause one to repent. His heart understanding he is wrong is what will cause him to listen to reason. If not, then you’re just wasting your time with that person who’s already set on ignoring whatever it is you have to say. I have had the privilege of assisting and running an actual church congregation for over the past decade and these have been hard learned, yet necessary lessons.
Street preaching and great pulpit sermons have their place but there is nothing like listening to a person pour out his heart to you and then using God’s word tactfully to encourage him. Take it from me, when you take in a lot of the Bible you will retain a lot and it will cause you to want to share a lot, but unless you are in the teaching position with students who are there only to hear and take in what you’re saying, be careful to not make the average conversation with your fellow-man a sermon.