We have all had the unfortunate experience in life of having to speak with someone who is demeaning and offensive in how they approach a matter. They seem to relish putting people on the spot. Somehow they think that taking a hard-hitting approach will drive home their point more effectively. Usually the opposite is true, because their manner of speech is speaking more loudly than what is being said. Rather than relationships being strengthened, they are destroyed by abrasive words.
This type of response from the unsaved shouldn’t surprise us, but it should never be true of a believer in Christ. Sadly though, it is becoming increasingly true in the Christian community. One of the graces that nearly has been lost in the Church today is tact. Tact is a “keen sense of what to do or say in order to maintain good relations with others or to avoid offense.” Essentially, it is having perception and grace when dealing with others. The Apostle Paul was a seasoned veteran in the art of tact. While he could be firm when it came to confronting error, he always did so with grace, hoping to restore the offender. More often than not, however, he exercised tact to accomplish his purpose.
A good example is when Paul addressed his countrymen in Jerusalem who were determined to take his life. As he was being led away to the castle, he requested that the chief captain allow him to speak to the unruly mob. We’re sure this probably seemed to be a strange request to the Roman captain, but he gave Paul permission to speak to his countrymen.
“Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defense which I make now unto you. (And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence: and he saith,) I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel…” (Acts 22:1-3).
Before Paul shared his conversion on the road to Damascus, he, tactfully addressed them with titles of respect, “men, brethren, and fathers.” Then he perceptively spoke to them in the Hebrew language, the mother tongue of the chosen nation. Notice their response, “they kept the more silent.” Once he had their undivided attention, Paul identified himself with them, revealing that he was a Jew, born in Tarsus, but lived most of his life in Jerusalem, where he sat at the feet of one of their revered doctors of the law, Gamaliel.
That’s tact! May the Lord give us this type of discretion when we minister to others! And may it be to the praise of His glory.
To the Reader:
Some of our Two Minutes articles were written many years ago by Pastor C. R. Stam for publication in newspapers. When many of these articles were later compiled in book form, Pastor Stam wrote this word of explanation in the Preface:
"It should be borne in mind that the newspaper column, Two Minutes With the Bible, has now been published for many years, so that local, national and international events are discussed as if they occurred only recently. Rather than rewrite or date such articles, we have left them just as they were when first published. This, we felt, would add to the interest, especially since our readers understand that they first appeared as newspaper articles."
To this we would add that the same is true for the articles written by others that we continue to add, on a regular basis, to the Two Minutes library. We hope that you'll agree that while some of the references in these articles are dated, the spiritual truths taught therein are timeless.