War of Words written by Paul Tripp is a book about communication, uniquely written for the purpose of helping readers to confront the sin that lies in the heart. This book on communication is not a book that offers new ideas or communication techniques; it offers practical and biblical exhortation. The pattern of truth discussed reminds readers that sinful communication takes place as a result of the heart; in spite of the best methods and communication techniques the heart will foil communication every time. Reading about real people, and real arguments helps the reader to identify personal weakness and sin regarding communication.
Tripp begins the book by reminding readers that God is the one who has given man the privilege of words. The ability to communicate on a complicated level is one of the things that separates humanity from the rest of God’s creation. Man has always had trouble being a good steward of this gift that God has graciously given. Since this is true, it should motivate all Christian readers to pray for change and listen closely to God’s advice on the matter. The Bible offers a great deal of practical truth and help for communication; Tripp has a special ability to make it even more practical by offering a list of suggestions in nearly every chapter.
War of Words is not a very long book, and Tripp is a prolific writer. His experience in writing and counseling qualifies him to write such a book. Although at times, it seems that maybe Mrs. Tripp would have been more qualified (smile now); as Paul demonstrates transparency it is clear that his wife is the better communicator, and she often helps him. Paul’s transparency gave credit to the book. He shares his own personal experience which always included repentance and the sanctifying work of God. In the introduction to the book Tripp did share his own weakness of communicating poorly. I always appreciate the transparency and humility of the author. Whenever I review books I like to include how I have been most moved by God, the author, and the content.
Tripp breaks the book up into three sections, Talk is Not Cheap, A New Agenda for Our Talk, and Winning the War of Words. In the first section Tripp examined the source of words, the first use of deceiving words, and the Solution for idol words. The second section, Tripp examined the Solution, which is Christ. Christ is the reason for necessary change, and He is the one who enables change. As his ambassadors Christians must take the war of words seriously. Tripp explains the war to readers, and he has explained the reason for fighting this war, but in the third section he explains how to fight in the war of words.
From time to time Tripp revealed his reformed persuasion. While this was not necessarily a weakness, it was a distraction. Perhaps it is a weakness for this reader; whenever reformed philosophy appears in writing it always leads to a slight unrest. Despite the slight distraction the book was very helpful and inspirational. Nearly half way through the book Tripp discussed the biblical truth that Christians are ambassadors of God. This is not a new concept, but this portion of the book was a good reminder that Christians also represent God with words, and thoughts, not only actions.
One of the most influential parts of the book was chapter ten, On the Kings Mission. Tripp shares a scenario of a real situation involving a disappointed father as he discovers that his son has been involved in sinful communication. The point of the chapter was this, it is important to communicate and correct in a redemptive way. God gives people opportunities to participate in the lives of others; these opportunities can include conversation, influence or correction; ultimately, this a continuation of ambassador status.
Participating in the lives of others is a task that is neither small nor unimportant. The last mentioned truths should compel Christians to immediately examine themselves in the area of communication. Tripp writes the book from a reformed perspective, but any reader, deterministic or libertarian should be able to appreciate the way that Tripp makes Christ central in the communication process by suggesting redemptive communication.
As Christians face challenging conversation, people, and corrective situations they must approach all with the thought of redemption. God is involved in the lives of all His children, and he is using other Christians in this sanctification process. It would be wonderful if every Christian would approach others with a redemptive agenda, rather than being selfish. It would be wonderful if every Christian that faced correction from another, responded with humility. Since God’s plan in everyone’s life is not clear, it is best to approach communication redemptively. Given the privilege to communicate to others, it would only make sense to communicate in a way that brings out the best in people. Even faced with negativity and selfish communication a Christian should be able to recognize that God is working to bring out the best in every Christian. Since this is true, it should be the goal in the life of each Christian to do likewise.
Near the conclusion of the book Tripp shares a four step method of repentance. The first step, is consideration; each Christian must realize that they often see the shortcomings of others, but rarely see their own faults. The Christian must examine himself or herself regularly by looking in the mirror of God’s Word. The second step is confessing; each Christian must confess their sin of communication, but also realize that our sinful hearts are responsible for the words used. Tripp states, “we cannot confess sins of communication without confessing the sinful attitudes that have shaped our words.” The third step is commitment, and requires each Christian to prepare for success in the war of words. The fourth step is change, and this is what God wants for each Christian, a change of heart that leads to a change in communication.
The War of Words is unlike other books on communication. A reader will not discover any new communication techniques or methods. However, the reader will find old truths from God’s Word that remind readers about the importance of godly communication. Tripp wrote the book in such transparency that most readers will be able to identify with him and his communication struggles. He also discussed the faults of others, the scenarios presented are also relative to readers because most people struggle with communication. The most thoughtful point made in the book was the importance to communicate redemptively. One cannot always see God’s involvement in the life of others, however, it would be best for each Christian to be aware of God’s involvement and with such awareness appreciate the privilege of also being involved. What a joy to know that each Christian can partner with God to be a help in the lives of others. God uses other Christians and their words to encourage, exhort, edify, and graciously correct, all for the purpose of biblical change.
Tripp, David, Paul. 2001 War of Words: Getting to the Heart of Your Communication Struggles. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing.