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I find myself often repeating Jeremiah’s words to God: “Ah, Sovereign LORD, I do not know how to speak.” But while the Old Testament prophet used them as an excuse not to speak, I most often use them as a confession of my speech that was a bit too hasty and lacked the Christ-like tone it needed.

John Mark Reynolds delves into testy waters of Christians fumbling attempt to speak like the Master.

An effective Christian communicator would use certain rhetorical styles sparingly because they don’t work very often with the audience he or she is addressing. Christians who over use such talk often defend their courage when they should be questioning their cultural competence. Courageous ineffectual speech is no virtue and aping the style of Jesus while missing the point of that style is foolish.

Jesus may have used tough language, but he was never nasty. A nasty communicator leaves only the memory of his barbs, but a great teacher like Jesus leaves the lesson. The after taste of his great teachings, such as the Sermon on the Mount, is not bitter, but blessed.

The two extremes, Barney and the beast, are not easy to avoid in any time, but perhaps are particularly difficult in an era where communication is so easy. Tough talk makes for good radio, or a fascinating blog, but does not wear well over time. If every evil or disagreement is labeled apostasy, or fascism, or communism, then nothing is left to say when real evil happens.

Reynolds demonstrates that Jesus did indeed use tough language, but much of his communication style depending on His target and His culture. He does well in reminding Christians that being brash to any and all challengers is not in line with who Jesus has called us to be and neither is it beneficial for Christians to allow untruths to go unchallenged.

Why do I still feel the need to say, “I do not know how to speak?”