The Message Matters
It's funny how we can hear the same thing expressed in two different ways and have completely different reactions to it. For example, when I tell people that we try to listen to God's voice for each other at my church, most think that's wonderful. But if I say we do something called "prophetic ministry," it sets off alarm bells and red flags and all kinds of concerns about my beliefs. Why? Not because it's unbiblical (I still believe 1 Corinthians 14:1 is one of the most neglected instructions in all of scripture), but because the words don't fit American evangelical culture.
I'll save the discussion about prophetic ministry for another post; this one is about how words affect our perceptions. What can be perfectly acceptable when phrased one way is "dangerous" when expressed another. That's one reason I have no problem with the myriad Bible translations that are available to us today. The phrasing of one passage may have zero impact on me, but when I read it in a different translation, it hits home. And it can work in the completely opposite direction for another reader.
The perception of language has enormous impact on our relationships too. How we express a concern, phrase an affirmation, or offer advice matters. So do the tone of voice, facial expressions, and attitudes behind our words. Some people have great communication skills, and some don't. But we all communicate. And how we do so has a significant effect on our quality of life.
Learn to speak to the heart. The world is full of information but tragically lacking in truly transforming messages. Every one of us has the ability to become an expression of eternal truth. And, if we understand the power of words, we can express it in ways that create strength and life in those around us—and, when necessary, challenge each other's beliefs.