Do you want to remedy the shallow stereotype of “take two verses and call me in the morning?” Are you ready to stop placing band-aids on your friends’ suffering and sin? Then engage in mutual gospel conversations based upon a biblical way of looking at and living life. (Excerpted from Spiritual Friends.)
Gospel Conversations: Ephesians 4:29
People struggling with suffering and wrestling with besetting sins need whispers, not shouts. Don’t holler curses; whisper grace.
Caring gospel conversations use biblical wisdom principles to engage your spiritual friends in discussions that help them to think through their external situation and internal heart condition. The core relational competency necessary for this soul care art is the ability to trialogue.
In a monologue you speak to me, in a dialogue we speak to each other, and in trialogues together we listen to God as He speaks to us through His all-sufficient Word. In trialogues, we make the presence of God the central dynamic in our conversation. We interact in Jesus’ name helping people to face personal issues on a personal level. Our personal relationship with them helps them to deepen their personal relationship with Christ.
Gospel conversations invite your spiritual friends into an exchange so they can experience the passion of having been changed—by grace. They invite your spiritual friends into a vivid, robust experience of grace narratives through grace relationships.
Consider just a sampling of biblical passages that depict trialogues:
- “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20).
- “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Hebrews 3:12-13).
- “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith . . . And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:22, 24-25).
The tongue has the capacity to offer life-giving resources that nourish the soul, or to be a power for life-draining energies that poison the soul. “From the fruit of his mouth a man’s stomach is filled: with the harvest from his lips he is satisfied. The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit” (Proverbs 18:20-21). Gospel conversations involve good talk about our good God and Christ’s good news in the midst of our bad life in our sinful world.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29). Gospel conversations are grace conversations. Law conversations crush people and destroy relationships (compare Matthew 23). Grace conversations edify people and build relationships.
“Unwholesome” words are corrupt and rotten like decaying fruit. They’re putrid, defiling, and injuring words. They’re toxic speech—words that poison others, making their spirit sick. Paul’s emphasis is clear in the original language: “All words of rottenness, do not let come out of your mouth.” Spiritual friends restrain themselves, refusing to speak until they understand what words will be:
- Helpful: Good because they flow from moral character and promote beautiful living.
- Strengthening/Building Up Others: Edifying words that bring improvement and promote maturity.
- According to Their Need: Carefully chosen words that specifically fill up a need, meet a lack, minister to a want, or express care in a difficulty, where it is most necessary.
- Beneficial: Ministering grace. Attractive speech that helps others to receive God’s love poem and become God’s love poetry. They are grace-gift words—generously given, freely granted words that accept, that free, that empower, and that give hope.
To the Colossians, Paul writes, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6). Grace words are words of connection, giving, affirming, accepting, freeing, and justifying. They are seasoned with salt—they preserve relationships with God, others, and self.
James, after describing the fiery and poisonous nature of words (James 3:1-8), notes that, “with the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness” (James 3:9). In James 3:10-16, James teaches that Satan is the ultimate source of cursing words—harmful, hurtful, damaging words that wish a judgment upon someone.
The most harmful words involve cursing conversations, law relationships, and condemning speech filled with wrath and scorn. Grace words, by contrast, are motivated by purity, pursue peace, and produce the fruit of righteousness (James 3:17-18).
Who needs your grace words today? How will you minister to this person through gospel conversations?