Instant … Not Easy

You message a friend that you can’t make your arranged meeting. You get back the one-word response … “Fine.” Look at the faces to the left. Which face is on the other end of that text? Is it an indignant “fine?” Are they hurt? Is it a relaxed and friendly, “Don’t worry about it?” Perhaps they’re relieved you can’t come. Can’t you hear the different possible intonations? Maybe I should ask, “Can’t you imagine them?” We read the words and our minds jump to supplying the rest; the look in their eyes, the set of their mouth, the cock of their head. We might even hear their voice.

People seem to be catching on that text doesn’t always convey exactly what we intend. I found several very useful articles on the internet about how not to start a war with your email. One article had a radical suggestion; “If you suspect that your message might be misunderstood or cause offense, get out from behind your computer and go talk to the person face to face.”

Paul didn’t always have that luxury, but he was sensitive to the limits of a written message. One of his hardest hitting letter was written to the church he founded in Galatia. In his absence, other teachers came in and persuaded the believers to return to some sort of works-based salvation. Paul did not shy away from confronting this distortion of the true Gospel. He did not mince words … “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?” Galatians 3:1  Paul felt he had not only the right, but the obligation to speak in such a forceful manner. The situation required it … the Galatians were in spiritual danger! And yet you find that he was concerned that they understand the heart behind his message. “How I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!” Galatians 4:20

Paul is a good example of going the extra mile in communication. Sometimes he even sent his letters with another pastor to make certain the recipients got the right message. 1 Corinthians 4:16; Ephesians 6:22; Philippians 2:19; Colossians 4:8. We live in an age of instant and easy communication … but good communication is seldom instant or easy. Go the extra mile. Reread your texts and emails before you hit ‘send’. If a message feels a little hot … let it cool overnight. If you know there’s a chance for misunderstanding, be brave … pray and go in person.