We all say dumb things. Some of us more often than others. Everyone can think back to a time when you immediately regretted the words that escaped from your mouth. I think of comedian Brian Regan’s account of chatting with a woman where he mistakenly thought she was pregnant. “I think the rule is: Don’t guess at that ever, ever, ever, ever.... I don’t think I had enough of the “evers” memorized.” The spontaneity of living life moment by moment is fraught with potential verbal land mines. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize why most people prefer texting as opposed to real-time conversation: the opportunity to delete.
21st century western culture loves to pounce on the wrong word at the wrong time. And what scares us to death is the very real possibility we’ll say something which offends or alienates someone. It doesn’t seem to be worth the risk. Just looking through the news this past week, pretty much any time an actor or actress was interviewed regarding the very real lack of diversity in the Academy Awards nominations, it seemed as though their comments were picked apart and they were made to look foolish. Or when Donald Trump went out there in Iowa on Saturday saying he could “shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” Actually, there’s no defending a statement like that.
What reading stories like this does is challenges our willingness to take risks when it comes to the weight of our topics of conversations. It’s much safer to stay on the topic of the AFC championship game than engage in a conversation about racism, gun policy, or Jesus. But staying safe in our conversations doesn’t do much for us, individually or as a community. As my friend Talon puts it, “We need more Big Talk. It’s the opposite of small talk.” But Big Talk requires risk. Authentic Christian community thrives from Big Talk, but strains under the weight of continuous small talk. Big Talk puts us out there, and “out there” can be pretty uncomfortable, especially in a place like Berkeley.
Bringing up your faith with another person is a great example of Big Talk. You’re giving a persuasive opinion of a worldview under which you’ve come to identify. It’s no small matter and there’s always an element of risk involved. The fear of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time looms, and one never fully knows how that message will be received. But this is a risk followers of Christ are commissioned to take. “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
One of our great hopes this semester is that we would continue to take strides towards becoming a movement characterized by Big Talk. Last week, we started a conversation with the campus by posting this question on Sproul: “What needs to change this semester?” Everyone has a couple of answers to this question, and our hope is that it’s one spurring us towards greater depth of engagement with each other and the campus. As we ask significant and meaningful questions of one another, and those outside our movement, we understand we are taking on a greater and greater risk. Sure, we might say some dumb things along the way, but it’s a small price to pay for the worthiness of vulnerability and authenticity.
Who is someone God is putting on your heart right now to engage in some Big Talk? Go for it! Embrace the risk! And try not to forget, don’t guess someone might be pregnant. Ever, ever, ever, ever, ever....