Wednesday, February 05, 2020

An Interview with Tim Shorey about “Respect the Image”

My new friend, Tim Shorey, has a new book out today, Respect the Image: Reflecting Human Worth in How We Listen and Talk.

I was recently introduced to Tim through our mutual friend Katie Faris who told me about his writings on healthy communication between humans, and P&R Publishing sent me an advanced copy to read.

Is there a more pressing need in society today than respectful communication between God’s image-bearers? As I’ve been reading Respect the Image, I have appreciated Tim’s pastoral approach to teaching biblical principles–gracious yet unbending, gentle and firm. He practices what he preaches by speaking the truth in love. Tim has a wry, self-deprecating sense of humor and uses it to illustrate his shortcomings (and personal growth) in this arena of the tongue.

One of the reasons I wanted to read Respect the Image was to prepare my heart for the 2020 election season especially for the coming onslaught on social media. It’s going to be a difficult year to be a Christian online. It is so easy, way too easy, to see people whom we disagree with as not just our opponents or even our enemies but as less-than-human and therefore unworthy of even basic respect. Everything Tim says in this book applies to the political arena.

As I’ve been turning the pages, however, I have been even more struck by how Respect the Image makes a great counterpart to my own book, Resisting Gossip. It explores the flipside of gossip, the “instead of” dynamic that I tried to emphasize throughout my book. We aren’t only supposed to “put off” sinful speech but “put on” the godly kind.

Earlier this week, I had a chance to connect with Tim and ask him some questions about his brand new book:

Matt: Why did you want to write a book on this? What from your own life experiences brought you to the place of writing on communication?

Tim: Respect the Image emerged from a life full of relationships—childhood with five siblings, 42 years of married life, six children, 13 grandchildren, 38 years of pastoral ministry, a church of 250 people consisting of 25 different ethnicities, and over 15,000 hours of pastoral counseling. Early on I realized that the most frequent personal,  pastoral, and counseling needs I faced were my own, and my people’s, need to learn more about God, more about the gospel, and more about communication; in that order. This all drove me to study biblical principles of communication in earnest—for my family, my flock and my world needed these truths both taught and practiced. This then gave birth to the basic structure and outline of Respect the Image. Further motivated by a desire for these principles to be called readily to mind in conflict and other situations I developed the acrostic format of the book and various other memory helps the book includes. All that said, I certainly would want my readers to know that these truths impacted me long before they ever got into book form. Now my hope is that they will leave a mark more widely than ever before.

Matt: What is the image of God and why should we be respecting it in others?

Tim: As any theologian would tell you, that’s a tough question to answer, since the answer is multi-layered. It involves  our being created to represent God’s rule on the earth—as Genesis 1 shows. While it normally might include the capacity to reason, to communicate, and to relate, it doesn't always do so, since there are some precious human beings who do not have such capacities; at least not to the same degree as others. I believe it is a deep mysterious reality in which every person has the mark and imprint of God upon him or her (along with a capacity to relate to him) —and is thereby stamped with dignity and value. I cannot define it well, but it is there for all to see whenever we look intently into each and every human face.

Matt: How does your book relate to the subject of my book? What principles in RTI would help a follower of Christ to resist gossip?

Tim: At its very core Respect the Image teaches that because each person is made in the image of God, we cannot communicate badly or sinfully or disparagingly with or about others without insulting the image they bear. Gossip is the great evil it is primarily because it demeans, disrespects, and destroys others; others who are to be held in high honor since they are made in the image, redeemed with precious blood, and destined for immortality. I dare not slander or gossip, because in so doing I slander God. This truth—and its force in countering gossip—is played out in numerous applications throughout the book. Gossip is the antithesis—the polar opposite—of the respect for, the celebration of, the attention to, the understanding of, and the charitable judgment toward, others to which the Bible calls us, and which my book tries to address. Where these truths rule in the heart a guard will stand watch over the tongue to ensure that the only words that come out are words calculated to bless, to nourish, and to honor. Gossip dies a certain—even if all-too-slow—death when respect prevails. No doubt it goes without saying that this is easier said than done. James let’s us know how hard it is. But if we ask for the wisdom from above and commit to honor the image, communication transformation can happen; and the results are wonderful!

Thank you, Tim, for your time and your labor love in producing Respect the Image. I pray that it helps many to reflect our Creator as we talk to and about those made in His likeness.