What do you apprehend to be more valuable than good sense, good nature, and good manners? All these are contained, and that in the highest degree, in what I mean by Christianity. Good sense (so called) is but a poor, dim shadow of what Christians call faith. Good nature is only a faint, distant resemblance of Christian charity. And good manners, if of the most finished kind that nature, assisted by art, can attain to, is but a dead picture of that holiness of conversation which is the image of God visibly expressed.
— John Wesley, “An Earnest Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion”
In a seminary class, we’ve been reading a book about non-violent communication. I’m sure that is why the quote above caught me eye. Wesley refers to holiness of conversation as the image of God visibly expressed. All our talk with and to each other should reflect God’s image.
As reasonable as this sounds, though, I do wonder what it means exactly. If I take Scripture as an example, I do not have to go far to find examples of communication that are not warm and fuzzy. The Marshall Rosenberg book linked above describes non-violent communication as avoiding all evaluation and judgment. It says that when we make a request we should not demand compliance.
Clearly, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit did not attend a workshop on Rosenberg’s principles. The apostle Paul and the prophets missed the seminar.
So, I wonder what Wesley meant by holy conversation. What does it mean to say the image of God is made visible in our talk with each other?