Though it is common to assert women speak more words a day than men, it appears more likely that men and women use a similar amount of words per day.* Regardless of whether or not that’s true, our words are not few.
I’m reminded today that all of my words matter, particularly when it comes to conversations. I simply do not believe in meaningless or irrelevant words. There are some conversations that are more intense, that may have more important or at least more immediate consequences, but every word I speak, every conversation I have, is important in some sense.
This is pressing on my mind today because I’ve recently finished reading a short chapter on Justin Martyr, an early Christian apologist (AD 100–165). Justin lived during the second century and gave his life in defense of the faith. He was executed for his refusal to sacrifice to pagan gods and thus earned the name, Justin Martyr (the word martyr refers to one who gives their life for a cause, often their faith).
However, before Justin was a defender of Christianity, he searched for truth in the philosophies and religions of his day. Eventually, he decided to give Platonism (the philosophy of Plato) a whirl.* It was during his pursuit of Platonism that Justin ran into “a distinguished-looking elderly gentlemen” which led to a life-altering and world-changing conversation.*
The story goes like this: Justin had sought a quiet place to contemplate higher realities (in keeping with his Platonic approach to seeking truth). While alone, he realizes another person is near him. An elderly gentleman had run into Justin in this remote spot. Eventually, they enter into a conversation about “how to find God.”* Justin advocates the approach of Plato. The old man, however, points Justin to the Scriptures and says, “Pray that, above all things, the gates of light may be opened to you; for these things cannot be perceived or understood by all, but only by the man to whom God and His Christ have imparted wisdom.”*
The conversation comes to a close and the old man departs. Who this man was, and whether or not he intentionally followed Justin because he wanted to evangelize him, we simply do not know. But once the conversation was over, Justin was a new man. He recounts, “Straightway a flame was kindled in my soul; and a love of the prophets, and of those men who are friends of Christ, possessed me…”*
Justin was no longer a searcher for truth in the pagan philosophies of his day but captivated by the philosophy of Jesus Christ. He would go on to defend the faith in both speech and writing, becoming one of our early Church Fathers.
The story of Justin and this elderly man reminds me of how important conversations can be, even those that are seemingly random. Justin sought a secluded place to find quiet, to pursue lofty philosophical ideals. An elderly man stumbles upon Justin and before you know it, they engage in an exchange of words. The words of one old man, fitly spoken, led to the conversion of a man who would go on to become a staunch defender and martyr for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.
Our conversations are more important than we realize.
Who will you speak to today? How important might that conversation be in the life of that person? And how important might that conversation be for the future of Christianity?
*Julie Huynh, “Study Finds No Difference in the Amount Men and Women Talk,” June 19, 2014 (https://ubrp.arizona.edu/study-finds-no-difference-in-the-amount-men-and-women-talk/). Also, Joan Greve, “Who Talks More, Men or Women? The Answer Isn’t as Obvious as You Think,” Time, July 16, 2014 (http://time.com/2992051/women-talk-more-study/).
*The quotes and information about Justin come from Bryan M. Liftin, Getting to Know the Church Fathers: An Evangelical Introduction, (43–45).