“All’s fair in love and war”. That’s a sentiment you’ve likely heard recounted wearily or spitefully in movies, stories, plays, songs, or even in your own life.
The Bible speaks on love and war too, and sometimes even within the same verse. King Solomon states in Ecclesiastes 3 that "there is a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”
Furthermore, the distance between love and war may not be far. Often, human communication lives precariously between love and war, which means the minefield of communication can be tricky to navigate.
So how do we navigate the minefield of communication?
To shed light on this question, I’ll share a personal story and some wisdom from Scripture. Browsing Facebook during lunch, a friend from my undergraduate Alma mater, [Lucy], posted a quote written by one of her favorite authors.
A friend of hers named [Bob] began to question the quoted author’s beliefs and salvation, as well the beliefs of the church Lucy attends. As the debate grew heated, Bob, Lucy, and another individual, [Mike], made quicker and bolder accusations on each other’s character, beliefs, and salvation.
It sounds like their communication moved from love to war frighteningly quickly. Heartbroken by their struggle in communicating their perspectives, their debate also reminded me of some conversations I have experienced myself.
Now, Facebook debates in Facebook-land are not uncommon. But this particular Facebook debate struck me as the hotly debated topics were also discussed at a biblical counseling conference I recently attended.
Disheartened, and maybe slightly shocked and appalled, by the unloving and public process of the accusatory debate, I was moved to send an encouraging, private group message to Bob, Lucy, and Mike.
Ninety percent of my message attempted to encourage us to 1) remember that only God completely knows the hearts’ of humans and 2) not to condemn one other in Christ. The other 10% included 1) the suggestion for us to convey concerns with our brothers and sisters in Christ in private first and 2) the confession of my limited human thoughts and ways in contrast with God’s higher thoughts and ways.
It was truly meant to be genuine and encouraging. I was genuine in my love and concern, and I was excited to share freeing truths. I even included smiley-faces and lots of hopeful Scripture verses! How could it go wrong?
But, see, that’s it. We are on earth. We still live in fallen world – we aren’t in heaven yet (that’s hard for me to remember sometimes). Therefore, communication will still have conflicts, even my best-intended communication.
As maybe expected, my message was not well-received or acknowledged. Bob and Mike did not respond directly to any parts of my message and they continued to debate between themselves. Lucy sent me a separate and angry response, assuming that I was trying to accuse her.
It was a painful mess. I felt even more heartbroken, ashamed, guilty, and hopeless. I could only imagine what they felt. My intentions were misunderstood, no one felt loved or encouraged, and I failed at navigating this minefield of communication war.
But thank God it didn’t end there. God loves to redeem even broken and conflicted communication. Through prayer, reflection, and a loving, convicting conversation with my caring boyfriend, I learned some wisdom on communication conflict and navigation.
1. There still truly is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Upon accepting Christ as our Savior, our identity is always in Him. You can rest in that. Conviction is where the Holy Spirit moves and changes us.
2. God alone completely knows every human heart. That includes my heart, even when I think I clearly know it and even when I think I’m expressing it humbly and well (Jeremiah 17:9-10, Proverbs 21:2, 1 Kings 8:39, Acts 15:8, Luke 16:15). Now that’s humbling.
3. Communication between Christian disciples is certainly best carried out in person in groups of two first (Matthew 18:15-17). Everyone may do well to do this. The temptation to move into extreme love or war can often become greater in large groups.
4. It’s often best to listen and ask questions first. Ask if the person would like your perspective, even when it’s a public Facebook debate where it may seem so acceptable to join in conversations boldly. Always ask first. God often asked questions first in Scripture, so we may do well to do the same (Genesis 3:9, John 5:6).
5. Sometimes, even messages with the best possible intentions may still not be well received or misunderstood (or both!). But this occurrence does not mean we are to give up communication. Rather, it could be an excellent opportunity to learn how to communicate more wisely next time.
We are not to condemn ourselves when we “get off course” in navigating communication. We are loved, imperfect humans created by a perfect God, who invites us into perfection in Christ (Romans 8:1).
When we are navigating the minefield of communication, we may always remember there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. only God completely knows a humans’ heart. No matter if we’re in love, in war, or somewhere in between.
Bio: Jennifer Schindler has recently turned her passion for helping people towards pursuing a M.A. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Moody Theological Seminary. She aspires to help young adults experience God’s life-giving and life-changing design for their life and the world. Jennifer is particularly passionate about helping young women experience freedom from sexual abuse and sexual sin in Christ Jesus. She also loves playing piano, playing in nature, and playing with her ministry director’s dog named Bella.