Sometimes we think that we are communicating the gospel because we get up and preach sermons or share our faith on Facebook or we are constantly talking about Jesus. But unless there is a connection there can be no communication. According to Sydney Harris, “Information is giving out while communication is getting through.” As disciples, we are called to not only give out information but to facilitate incarnation. We need to communicate in a way that allows people to touch, hear, feel Christ in our words and action. Good gospel communication begins with connection.
The book Giving the Love that Heals: A Guide for Parents by Harville Hendrix and Helen Hunt, explores the importance of connection. They specifically look at the connection between parents and children however their insights are applicable to all relationships. “We find our understanding deepened when we are drawn, by imagination and observation, to patterns of interaction and connection,” All of our relationships are interconnected and impact each other. Our connection with our colleagues and coworkers can spill into our connection at home. Our connection with our spouse, or significant other, often spills into our connection with our children. The ripple effect of connection continues out into our communities and ultimately into the world.
Unfortunately, bad connection and dysfunction is often inherited. “Wounding gets passed on as a legacy,” “The children and their children are punished for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:7) Not only is disconnection passed down within the family unit but within society, cultures, and subcultures. It does not take long in this broken world for our connections to become ruptured, severed, or disconnected. The good news is that we can find healthy ways to repair the rupture so that the connection can flourish again. This is why I will often tell parents that even if they do not approve of their adult children’s decisions, don’t ever cut off ties. Because once that connection is gone, it is very hard to get it back. Maintain connection. It doesn’t mean that you enable bad behavior or approve of every decision they make. However, keep the connection. Because at least then you still have an opportunity to be a positive influence. Bottomline connection is everything! So it goes for good gospel communication.
Hendricks and Hunt use the illustration of a tapestry. Life is a tapestry of connection. “We are woven together into a tapestry of living experience by the countless threads and stitches of our interactions with others. Every experience is part of the design. You can’t tell the exact point where the thread that weaves through one becomes the thread that weaves through the other. This does not mean they don’t have boundaries, they do. Respecting boundaries is one of the important ways we remind ourselves that others don’t have to be exactly the same as we are, ” The tapestry of life reveals that regardless of differences we are all deeply and profoundly connected.
Apply this illustration of a tapestry to all your relationships. “We are bound together in a most sacred of relationships. Be mindful of it, be careful, be reverential. Because it is possible to tear it. Tears in the tapestry are more likely to happen when you’re not paying attention to the moment or when you yourself are experiencing emotional pain. They happen when you are self-absorbed and unaware that you are tired or upset over something else, or simply ignorant of the effects of your words,” This is why the acronym HALT is so important. If you’re Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired—HALT. Don’t make big decisions. Don’t discipline. Don’t handle complex connections, (because you will probably do it callously or carelessly). HALT! First, eat something, pray, speak to someone you trust. Sleep on it! Because, it only takes one bad choice, one rash decision, one impulsive reaction, to tear the tapestry. It takes a lot of time to sew trust and no time to tear it. A connection that took years to knit together only takes a few seconds to rip apart—HALT! Think about your interactions. Are they strengthening, or tearing, the tapestry?
It’s easy to take someone else’s inventory, but are you listening to your own advice? It’s easy to see the prejudices and biases in everyone else, but can you see them in yourself? Can you see the tears in your own tapestry, the rips in your own relationships; the cracks in your connections, the compromise in your communication? Everything we do or say either gives life or takes it away. Are your interactions creating connection or disconnection? What does your tapestry look like? Is it unraveling? Is it all one color? Does every thread have to look exactly the same before you’re willing to connect to it? If so, you do not have a tapestry; you have a rug. Rugs are made to be walked on but tapestries are made to be put up on display so that people can see and marvel at the intricate, detailed, variety, of God’s beautiful artistry.
This is what Paul is getting at when he writes to the church of Phillippi in Philippians 2:14–16, “ Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.” Is your tapestry of connection something God can brag about?
It is time for Christians to start doing more stitching than tearing. We have to become more conscious about the way we’re interacting with the people we encounter on a daily basis. And when we do make a tear, (we all do it) be open, honest, and admit it. We can’t repair a rip until we recognize it. Only through confession can there ever be restoration of connection. Good connection, like a good tapestry, has healthy boundaries. But it is possible to hold to one’s convictions without compromising the connection. Good connection does not mean we have to be clones. We are not all the same. God made each person beautifully different. But we need to learn how to celebrate these differences without letting them divide us. We are one body with many, beautifully different, but equally important, parts. We are one body as Paul wrote to the Ephesians 4:5–6, “One Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Paul also tells us in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” No one is more important than anyone else. No one is more significant than anyone else. No one gets to lord anything over anyone except for the Lord Himself. We are a beautiful tapestry of diversity and unity revealing God’s artistry to the world.
Often we want to start with communicating the gospel. No. The first step in sharing our faith in a way that connects is not communication, but connection. As Theodore Roosevelt once said, “People do not care how much we know until they know how much we care.” Remember, “We love because He loved us first.” Likewise, we need to love the world, repair the connection, before the world will ever want to hear what we have to say. God’s first step in rescuing us from the great rip of sin was to repair our connection with Him. “We once were alienated from God and were enemies in our minds because of your evil behavior.” (Col. 1:21). “We were dead in your transgressions and sins,” (Eph. 2:1). The last time I checked, dead people can’t listen. Dead people can’t hear. Dead people cannot learn. So Christ came to reestablish the life spark. “The word became flesh and dwelt among us, he moved into our neighborhood,”(Jn 1:14). Through God’s incarnation, He repaired the connection so that now we are able to hear and see his love communicated to our hearts. God repaired the rip sin brought into our relationship. He restored what was ruptured. Jesus was willing to be broken so that we can be brought together. He allowed his body to be torn apart on the cross so that we could be brought close. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were willing to be separated from each other (something they had never done for all eternity) so that one day there will be no more separation. Hallelujah, Christ was willing to weave His perfect thread into the frayed, unraveling, threads of our broken lives. He connected His life to ours so that He could take our sinfulness to the cross and then give us His righteousness through His resurrection. Now “nothing can separate us from the love God has for us in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:38-39). Jesus was torn out so that we could be sewn back into the tapestry of eternity! Christ was crucified and cut off so that with his Resurrection we might be re-stitched into the fabric of forever.
Do you want to become better at communicating the gospel? Start weaving your life into the lives of others, strengthening, brightening, and contributing in a positive way to the beautiful tapestry of life. Start improving your connection with others. Because without connection there can be no communication.
- Hendrix, Harville and Hunt, Helen “Giving the Love that Heals: A Guide for Parents” Pocket Books, 1997 New York