A fantastic photo has been going around the internet over the last year or so. Its a screenshot of an advertisement. A guy was selling his sweet bass boat for $56,000 or best offer. Basically brand new, only 35 hours of use on it.
The ad says, “Need Gone ASAP! I’m selling it because it was purchased without proper consent of loving wife. Apparently do whatever the **** you want doesn’t mean what I thought.”
I’m sure you’ve heard at some point in your life that about 93% of communication is non-verbal. Its body language. Its tone and inflection. An invitation to “do whatever you want” may mean one thing in word, but coming from pursed lips, a furrowed brow, and arms crossed in an angry tone while storming out of the room, changes the meaning dramatically.
Your posture alone can communicate so much. I know this is true, because I talk to people in small and large groups, and one-on-one, all the time! Posture makes a huge difference. You know this. You don’t have to ask a person if they’re bored, excited or interested or completely confused about what you're saying: their body will tell you.
Their facial expression will communicate it for you.
What is their posture in the chair? Are they leaning back? Leaning forward? Head in their hands? Locked in? Engaged and nodding or angry and shaking their head? Completely out cold and falling asleep?
In fact, I heard someone once say that words might portray what you know (or event what you think you should say) but your posture communicates what you actually feel and believe.
To say it differently, you might say one thing, but your posture might be communicating something else altogether!
Why does any of this matter? It matters because even if we overcome our physical presence issues outlined in a previous post, our posture in the presence of others may still be causing us problems. In fact so much of the tension that exists in our country, communities, institutions, relationships, families, and friendships has to do with posture. We might be saying one thing with our words, but our posture is communicating how we truly feel.
All of this made me wonder: What is my posture towards those with whom I disagree? And perhaps an even more painful question: Is my posture consistent with my position as a Jesus follower? Does my body language, tone and inflection look like Jesus?
Its interesting, Jesus had the reputation of being a “friend of sinners.” Why isn’t that the reputation of his movement today? Its because Jesus posture towards sinners was to kneel down in the dirt with an adulterous woman who was about to be stoned. Jesus posture was to join sinners for dinners and share a table and meal. Jesus wasn’t just present with people, his posture in their presence was alluring. People who were nothing like him, really liked him. He was gentle and humble in heart. The sin of people didn’t seem to bother him that much, or at least not in the same way that it bothered the religious folks of the day.
And as a result, some of Jesus most influential followers, taught gatherings of Christians how to posture themselves towards those who weren’t followers. The apostle Paul and his crew were gentle with the people living in the city of Thessalonica. In fact he says that it was because of their love for the citizens of that city that they ended up sharing the message of Jesus. Did you catch that? They didn’t share the message because these Thessalonians were on the highway to hell and someone needed to tell them quick! They were present with them. They worked among them. They fell in love with them. And it was because of his love for them that they shared the message. And it was from a posture of genuine love that they shared the life of Jesus.
In one of his other letters to Christians living in Colossi, Paul tells the Christians there that they should be wise as they interact with people who don’t share their faith. Be gracious. Be salty. Be ready. Their posture should be one of grace. There’s no room for arrogance in the life of a Jesus follower, as though they are the definition of how to be human. They should be salty, flavorful. Jesus followers should bring the flavor to conversation, to social situations, to life in general - we believe that God is on a mission to fix everything! We should be the most flavorful people. And we should be ready to give an answer to those who ask us why we are the way we are. If no one’s asking, either your posture’s no good or you haven’t been present long enough.
The apostle Peter says the same thing, to be gentle and humble in talking about your faith.
If you are present with people, and this is your posture, most people will be willing, perhaps even curious, to hear what you have to say. Your posture communicates how you feel about people and what you believe.
Jesus, who I believe knew everything (being God and all), somehow managed to not be an arrogant stone thrower. Instead he would kneel down next to sinners. That’s posture. Sometimes I hear people say things like “Its important that we stand up for Jesus!” Its usually connected to some sort of political ideals or values. Believe me when I say, Jesus is not calling you to stand up for him. He’s God. He rose from the dead. He’s going to be okay.
Do you know what you are called to do?
To stand like him.
To take on his tone, his inflection, his posture.
To kneel like him, between those who are holding the rocks, and their targets.
In another of his letters the Apostle Paul said that he has decided that his life is no longer his own, but instead his life is about living as though Jesus was living his life for him. Through him.
How might that impact your posture towards others? I’m terrible at this. I’m often more passionate about presenting what I think, than my posture towards people. My wife regularly reminds me, “People don’t remember what you say most of all, they remember how they felt when you were with them.” That’s all about posture. My words might say, “I want to see you in heaven!” But if my posture says, “You can go straight to hell!”, then I've missed it. Its time we stop standing up for Jesus and start standing like him.
This works across the board. This is not just a Christian evangelism tool, this is a principle for life. 90% of communication is body language.
How might some of your most contentious conversations change if we took on a humble, gentle and gracious posture towards those we don’t agree with?
Lets be present with a posture of humility, gentleness, and grace.