Marriage Communication – Part 1 Sermon Outline
Edgar Hoover was the director of the FBI for 37 years and because of his strong-arm tactics he was feared by presidents & congressmen, and people throughout society. He was so feared that even his own employees at the FBI rarely questioned him! There’s a story about Hoover that Snopes.com can’t verify but it goes way back to a time when the FBI had made some minor changes to physical paper used for their internal memos. They made memos smaller to reduce cost. And when Hoover got the new memo pad, he was annoyed by the small margins. So, he wrote on one of the memo sheets “Watch the borders” and sent it back to the supply room. Now—in the FBI, any command of Hoover was obeyed, and so, as the story goes Hoover’s “Watch the border” memo passed through the ranks of the FBI, and for next several weeks—it was extremely difficult to enter the United States from either Mexico or Canada because the FBI was watching the borders! Now, that may be a silly story…but it highlights the challenges of communication.
This morning, we’re continuing our sermon series on marriage, today we’re going to talk about the principles of godly communication. These principles relate to every aspect of life—not just marriage but to any relationship whether at home, or with friends, or at church / work or somewhere else.
Communication is a critical component of life. How we communicate is a mixture of our words, our tones, our facial expression, our body language the context and the setting and the point we’re trying to make. It involves two parties: The speaker and the hearer. It involves what is being said, how it’s being said, why it’s being said and when it’s being said. Good communication takes a wise, skillful person. Psalm 37:30 says, “The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice.” And so, one of the most important skills we can develop is how to communicate with godly wisdom.
According to a 2007 study published in the Scientific American, the average person speaks about 16,000 words a day! Women average about 16,215. Men average about 15,669. If we spoke that same amount every day of our life the average person would speak between 400 and 500 million words throughout their life! And with that many words it takes a godly person to get them right. And so today, we’re going to talk about several principles of godly communication; and although our focus will be on the home, these principles apply to nearly every domain of communication.
This is our fourth sermon in this series on marriage and the topic of communication builds on the foundation we’ve already laid about marriage and so, before we look at new principles let’s remember what we’ve already discussed.
In our first sermon, we laid down the foundation that a godly marriage requires three critical perspectives: The first is that our marriage has been given to us by God to glorify Him! God designed marriage. He gave it to us, and when we live according to His design, we will glorify Him and enjoy the rich treasures that He intended marriage to have!
We also saw that marriage is a covenant, not a contract. A contract is about promises you make to me. A covenant is about promises I make to you! And when a man and women get married, they make vows or promises or covenants with each other— that they will keep—for better or worse— until death does them part! And so, we also saw that keeping those covenants won’t (always) be easy. The curse has brought sin into this world and since marriage involves two sinful people; sin affects everything they do! And so, sin is a real problem and for a man to truly act like a biblical husband he needs to be filled with the Holy Spirit And for a woman to act like a biblical wife she too needs to be filled with the Holy Spirit. And so, that was our first sermon: We need to have the perspective that our marriage is to glorify God and we made a covenant with God and our spouse, and true, life-long obedience to that covenant requires us to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Our second sermon built on this foundation but covered some very controversial material. Our second sermon talked about the biblical roles that God has designed for a healthy, happy marriage. We saw that God designed the home for the husband to lead faithfully and love his wife unconditionally. God has designed women to need love. And when a husband doesn’t use loving words and a loving tone, he crushes his wife. And when things are rocky in a home, the husband should look at how he expresses his love for his wife and maybe make some changes.
In the same way, God has designed husbands to need respect. The book “Love and Respect” cites a survey where most men say they would rather respect than love! Men are wired for respect and when things are rocky in a home, the wife should look for how she’s expressing respect for her husband and perhaps she should make some changes.
Sometimes, people say, “Well, I can’t love her because of this / and I can’t respect him because of that…” The kind of love and respect that God designed for the home is unconditional. The husband is to love his wife unconditionally. And the wife is respect her husband unconditionally. And every now and then the husband should ask his wife if she feels loved by him and the wife should ask her husband if he feels she respects him. And together they should build a home based on love and respect. So that was our second sermon.
Our third sermon was supposed to be on communication, but I just couldn’t get away from one more foundation stone for a godly marriage, and that is: Godly marriages have to be about God’s eternal purposes.
So many people make marriage their idol, but the purpose of marriage isn’t just for our happiness, it’s that God has brought two people together with unique gifts and unique talents to uniquely accomplish His work in this world. And just as a boat is more stable when it’s moving, a home is more stable when it’s following God’s mission. And when a husband and wife work together to live by Christ’s mission, He will give them the grace to weather life’s difficulties and He will give them the blessings they need to accomplish His will. And so, every home and every person needs to have their life aligned with Christ’s kingdom purposes and one day, the husband will present his wife to Christ and give an account for all the ways he helped her grow in Christ so that she might be a more pure and spotless bride for the Lord, and a key way that’s going to happen is to make the purpose of the marriage accomplishing Christ’s work.
So, those are the three sermons we’ve worked through so far. Now, let’s build on them and talk about how to engage in godly communication while living out these purposes. Our ability to live by these points is tied to our ability to communicate peacefully and harmoniously. If we can’t communicate with love and respect, we’ll dishonor God with our words, we’ll hurt our spouse by withholding from them the love and respect God has designed them to need and bitterness will set in and God will take us out of His work and put us on the shelf until we get our home in order. So, it’s critical that we learn to communicate righteously.
As we start to think about the priority of godly communication, let’s listen to some verses that talk about the power of words. Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Proverbs 11:9 says, the godless person destroys his neighbor with his tongue. James 3:6 says, "…the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell." And so, Satan’s work can be accomplished with our tongue! And he will use our tongue to destroy ourselves and those around us! So, our tongue is so powerful it can destroy a person, but it can also bring healing and life.
Listen to the promise of Proverbs 15:4 which says, “A gentle tongue is a tree of life.” Proverbs 16:24 says, “Gracious words are like a honeycomb sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” James 3:18 says, “A harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” And so, James 3:6 says “unrighteous words defile the body”, but Proverbs 16:24 says, “gracious words bring health to the body.”
You and I have the opportunity to speak words that edify and heal our spouse or words that tear them down. With such power in our words—Why wouldn’t we seek to use this gift in all the ways that produce goodness and life and joy? I hope that’s what we all want. I know that’s what I want. So, let’s talk about some practical principles and talk about how to do this, starting with our first point...
Point #1 Godly Speech comes from a desire to please God
Out of the 500 million words we say, there are going to be many times where we’re having a bad day, and we’re running late, and we can’t find our keys and our spouse has just said something that’s so annoying! And the only thing that’s keeping us from losing it is a righteous fear of God. 2nd Corinthians 5:9 says, we have "… as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." The born-again Christian is a citizen of God’s kingdom and we seek to obey our king and if our words have the power to hurt someone or bring them blessings. God wants us to do good! And so that means God cares about what we say!
Jesus said in Matthew 15:11 that our words can defile us. Turn over to Matthew 12:36. Jesus said in Matthew 12:36 “every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.” That’s a frightening warning. One day, every word I speak will be reviewed for its righteousness and I will have to give an account for what I said and why. I am certain that there will be countless times where I will not be able to justify the words I choose to use when talking with my wife. Proverbs 12:18 says, “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts…” And far too often that person is me, and I’ll have to give an account to God for what I have said in carelessness and in secret.
When I think about a modern way to picture what that scene might look like, I think of how police officers have to give an account for what they do in the line of duty. From what I understand in many police departments, every police officer needs to file a detailed report every time they even unholster their gun in the line of duty. If the police office even pulls out their gun, when they get back to the police department, they need give an accounting of what was going on and why they felt it was necessary. Not only that, if the police officer actually fires their gun, they’re got pages and pages of paperwork. They have to explain why they fired the first bullet and why they fired every other bullet. They can’t just say, “The guy was mean so I shot at him.” The officer has to justify why each bullet was fired.
Tying this back to Jesus’ warning about our words, we should live as though we are going to stand before the Lord and explain why we fired off our words like bullets, and why we kept on firing at our spouse and children when they were down. Jesus wants us to take our words seriously and when we seek to please Him with our words we find out how difficult this is. Proverbs 10:19 says, “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” So, another key principle is that
Principle #2 Godly words flow from a godly heart
It takes wisdom to please God with our words because over the course of our lives, we have 500 million opportunities to go rogue and if we’re not walking in sweet fellowship with the Holy Spirit often that manifests itself in our words.
Many years ago, I was walking my dog around midnight when I heard a man and woman shouting outside. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but it was clearly an argument. As I walked closer, the volume got louder and eventually I could hear every word. To my sorrow, I realized it was a man and woman—either married or living together— shouting at each other on their front lawn. The husband was roaring at his wife and the wife was spewing the most vile stuff I’d ever heard. He was harsh and unkind and she was wicked in the insults she was hurling at him. I’ve never heard two people so loathe each other; and their words filled our neighborhood with bitter evil.
Jesus said, “…out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks…” And James 3:2 says, "If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well." Our words reflect what’s going on inside of us and when unrighteous words come out of our mouth, there is unrighteousness in our heart. Jesus said in Luke 6:45 “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” So, our mouths speak what’s in our heart…
Not only that, Paul lists sins of our mouth as a way to see if a person is hell bound. Turn over to 1st Corinthians 6:9…and let’s read this serious warning from 1 Corinthians 6:9–10. Paul says, "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God." Notice that Paul puts “revilers” in this list. A reviler is a person who’s constantly arguing and bickering. They’re the person never happy at the HOA meeting They’re always arguing with the T-Ball coach They’re the person muttering at work about the boss. And people who habitually sin in this way are demonstrating that their heart is far from God.
Now, just in case anyone is wondering, Paul’s not giving this as a list of sins that uniquely send a person to hell—like, if you do these, you’re going to hell and if you don’t, you’re okay. That’s not Paul’s point because every sin needs to be cleansed by the righteous blood of Christ, and any sin can send a person to Hell. Paul’s point is that if any of these sins characterize a person’s life, that person has not been born from above where the Kingdom of God and the Righteousness of God abide in holy perfection.
And so, anyone who is characterized by these sins has not yet been born-again—they can still be born-again and forgiven because Paul goes on to say in verse 11, “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God." But as long as these sins characterize a person—including the sin of reviling—that’s a sign that person is not yet part of the Kingdom of God.
Being “born-again” means to be born of God. Jesus said we must be born-again in John 3:3 saying to a Jewish leader named Nicodemus: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” That word “again” is really the word “above” and it’s the point that a person who has been born of God will live differently.
And one of the most recognizable differences for God’s children is being a peacemaker. Matthew 5:9 says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." A person is a peacemaker because they want to have kingdom peace with those around them.
We might not be as bad as the front-lawn couple, but deep down, angry words come from an angry heart. And until a person has peace with God, they’ll struggle to have peace with people and we won’t have peace with God until we’re born-again.
Being born-again begins with a prayer of faith. (Actually, it begins with the work of the Holy Spirit because no one can make themselves “born”) but from our perspective, being born-again means calling upon the Lord to be saved where we cry out to God and ask for forgiveness for our sins; and we trust that Jesus died on the cross for our forgiveness and we give up seeking to fulfill our old life and we begin living our new life in Christ, and as we walk in this new life and the Lord cleanses us of the heart problems that produce sinful words.
So—the first step of good communication comes from wanting to please God. The second step of good communication comes from getting our heart right. And now for our third point: The third step of godly communication comes from seeking to speak like Jesus.
Point #3 Godly Words Comes from Speaking like Jesus
You might remember the WWJD craze of about 25 years ago. WWJD stood for “What would Jesus do?” and it was rooted in an old novel about a church (or a town) where the people decided to only do what Jesus would do and over the course of the book, the entire town was transformed. And so, in the 90s people got caught up in that mindset and wore all kinds of reminders that would say, “WWJD” to remind them to only do the things that Jesus would do. That’s not a bad pursuit, especially when it comes to speech. When a husband and wife are seeking godly words, they will seek to be Christlike in their communication.
And when you think about how Jesus spoke, Jesus spoke pure, holy words. When we studied John’s Gospel, we saw—over and over—how Jesus came to give them the holy words of God. He was constantly telling the people He came from God. He taught the word of God. His words were true, holy and pure. Peter told Jesus that He alone, spoke the words of eternal life. How amazing would it have been to be around a person who always spoke words that were true, holy and edifying. And Paul describes how we can follow Christ’s example with our words in Colossians 3:8–10 saying, "But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him—" Being renewed in the image of Christ means putting aside: Anger Wrath Gossip & slander And abusive speech.
Jesus also taught that our words should be honest. Jesus condemned the Jews for their lies and following Satan / who is the father of lies. And He taught us, as kingdom people, to let our yes be yes and our no be no.
Lies and deception kill communication. Sometimes the lies are straight up conversation killers. The guy asks his wife how she’s doing and she says one word: “Fine”. Ladies, you tell me. Is that true? That might be true but if it’s not, she’s not speaking like Jesus. You might say, “I’m so, ticked that you I can’t talk right now.” Or, “I’m hurting so, much I don’t think you can handle my pain…” But if you’re not fine don’t say it.
Here’s another example of inaccurate words: Say a guy leaves work and his wife calls and he says he’s on his way home he knows full-well that he’s going to stop at Home Depot on the way. Technically, he’s on his way home, he’s just going to stop at Home Depot because they’re having a sale on tools and he’s going to be a while. Even if he’s honest when he gets home an hour late, he wasn’t honest the first time when he said he was coming home but knew the “Home Depot Tractor Beam” was going to draw him in. Christ’s words were always accurate.
Likewise, they were always kingdom focused. Throughout John’s Gospel, we read about how Jesus was focused on doing the Lord’s work through His ministry. Jesus said in John 6:38 “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me."
And a key focus of Jesus’ ministry was to build up people. Paul reiterated this idea in Ephesians 4:49. Turn over to Ephesians 4:29. Paul said in Ephesians 4:29: "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear." Now, when we normally use this verse, we apply it to things like having righteous and pure words and no profanity and that’s entirely appropriate because Ephesians 5:4 says, "and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks." So, righteous words don’t curse or get caught up in coarse speech…but verse 29 means much more than just “don’t say bad things.”
Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth” The Greek word for “unwholesome” is the Greek word “sapros”. And “sapros” is rooted in the process of rotting or decay. And so, the unwholesome words that Paul is talking about are word that produce rot and decay in our heart and those around us. When you think about what kinds of words produce rot and decay they’re not just words that crass and vulgar but words that are critical, and unkind and unloving. And so, verse 29 is saying that we’re not let any of soul-killing speech come out of our mouths. And this is a skill we can learn through wisdom. Proverbs 16:23 says, "The heart of the wise instructs his mouth and adds persuasiveness to his lips."
The Hebrew word for “wisdom” is “hokma” which actually means “skill”. It was used in many places in the Old Testament of people who had the skill of metal-working or some other useful ability. The idea is that a person with “hokma” is able to get the job done. They knew what needs to be done and can do it. And when it comes to godly words…Proverbs 15:2 says, "The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable."
This means being thoughtful about your hearers…just like Ephesians 4:29 says…"Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear." To speak godly, Christlike words, we need to be thinking about the person we are talking with. James 1:19 says, “everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger…” In the same way…Peter tells husbands to know and understand their wives in 1 Peter 3:7 saying, "You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way…"
Wisdom requires that we think about our spouse and what they need to hear from us. If we’re a husband, what kind of loving words does our wife need to hear? If we’re a wife, what kind of respectful words does our husband need to hear? And then the reverse, what kind of words hurt our spouse and how can we avoid them? What does our wife feel is most unloving and how can we avoid that? What does our husband feel is most disrespectful and how can we avoid that? And when we live like this, we are following Christ’s example of being purposeful and intentional with our words as we seek to build up our spouse. And this ties into our fourth component of godly speech, which is…
Point #4 Godly Words comes from Ruling Our Spirit
There’s a verse that ought to be mandatory for every married couple to memorize and that’s Proverbs 15:1. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath.”
The point is that if someone is freaking out on us the best way to speak to them is to respond with gentleness and if we speak with gentleness, their answer will often be reduced or removed completely. And this is a great verse for newlyweds because it’s a great tool for diffusing arguments because it’s hard to keep arguing with a person who is speaking to you with gentleness and kindness.
So, it’s a great principle for every marriage—but how do we actually live this out?
We give a gentle answer by ruling our spirit. Godly words comes from godly people who rule their spirit. Psalm 141:3 says, "Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips." Godly people who speak with gentleness still have the same emotions as everyone else they just don’t vent every frustration.
Our modern society has caused so much pain with its teaching that people should always vent their emotions. And yet, Proverbs 29:11 says, “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.”
Ruling our spirit doesn’t mean we stuff our emotions so deep down that no one sees them. It just means we don’t allow our emotions to dictate our words, their tone, or volume or rate of speech. We simply respond with gentleness.
For decades we’ve seen how venting every emotion ruins marriages, children, and lives. It’s time we just go back to the biblical principle of ruling our spirit. The person who vents every emotion is not godly person at all. The godly person is the wise person who quietly holds them back.
A lot of times, one of the first symptoms of a person who does not rule their spirit is irritability. We started with Proverbs 15:1 which says… “A soft answer turns away wrath” but it goes on to say, “a harsh word stirs up anger.” Often, people live the opposite of this verse: One spouse will be so easily irritated that no one can speak to them without risking an argument. And even when their spouse comes to them with a soft word, they still respond with a harsh word. How often are entire evenings ruined when one spouse offends the other, who snaps back…
And in that moment, we have a choice: We can be ruled by our spirit or we can rule our spirit with wisdom Proverbs 19:11, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” Proverbs 21:23 says, “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.” And so—one of the keys to ruling our spirit is to not be offended by every little thing that is said to you. And when we are slow to take offense, we’ll be amazed at how quickly the quarreling will settle down…
Proverbs 17:14, “The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out.” All of us will find times when we’re at the edge of an argument. It hasn’t start to, but it’s about to. We said something and they’re offended or they said something and we’re offended, and the air just got sucked out of the room and a fight is coming…and that’s when we have listen to the Holy Spirit an rule our spirit and say something like… “Hang on, snookums…I don’t want to quarrel. I’m sorry I said that. I love you and that came out wrong.” And a lot of times we can avoid quarreling by just going back to the principles of love and respect. A husband can say to his wife, “I love you my whole heart. I’m sorry came out that way. Is not what I meant” And a wife can say, “Honey, I totally respect you and what you’re saying. I know it didn’t sound like it, but I do. Here’s what I meant…”
And when we respond that way, we’re ruling our spirit and just because we feel emotions and just because our emotions say, “be offended and raise your voice”, we don’t have to. We can be peacemakers because we’re not enslaved to doing whatever our emotions say to do.
Another way of ruling your spirit is being the first person to move towards peace. Sometimes a husband and wife get into such an argument that it ruins the whole day and it carries into the evening and even to night. And if no one moves towards peace, that tension will still be there the next morning, and afternoon and night. And people can go days without talking. They might not be sinning with their words, but they’re sinning with their silence. Ephesians 4:26 says, "BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger." If we let the sun go down on our anger, we’re sinning. The Lord commands us to work it out to stay up late and talk it through no matter what.
Corinne and I have had many difficult discussions that went until 2 or 3 in the morning in what a friend of ours calls “intense fellowship”. We weren’t shouting all night, but there was so much hurt and pain and anger. That it took half the night to talk it through. And the one or two times we’ve gone to sleep in anger (in 21 years of marriage, it’s happened a couple of time) but that was because we were both sinning. Christ calls us to be peacemakers but if we went to sleep angry, it was because neither one of us were willing to be the first one to move to peace because both of us were so ruled by our emotions we refused to obey God. So, part of ruling our spirit is working towards peace, even when our flesh doesn’t want to.
Now, you might ask the question: What if the issue is really important? What if they really do believe something that we find offensive? Those are good questions and we’ll talk them when we talk about Forgiveness and Reconciliation, for now, we’ll have to land the plane here.
We’ve covered a lot of principles and a lot of verses, but God’s Word has so much to say about communication!
Today we’ve talked about how we need to live in light of the fact God is pleased by righteous words. We need to please God with how we speak to one another and what we speak about. We need to speak words from a renewed heart where we’re citizens of Christ’s kingdom and speak of kingdom truths. We need to pattern our speech after Jesus. Jesus spoke holy, pure words, and kingdom words, and words that edified the hearers and finally, we need to rule their heart and not let their emptions dictate what we say. Jeremiah 17:9 says our heart is desperately sick and we should not listen to it. But as we rule our spirit, we will have gentle words and we’ll avoid conflict and when it comes, we’ll be the first to seek peace.
Beloved, God cares about our communication and He wants us to have a lifetime of love. When we communicate according to Kingdom Principles, we’ll have marriages that follow God’s Kingdom pattern. And we’ll talk about that more next week.