Defining By Descriptive Behavior . . . .


One of the responsibilities of a communicator is to provide clarity.  At times it might be wise to write on the edge of your preaching notes — “clarify” — as a reminder that this is what you are doing or attempting to do at this point in your message.

There are biblical terms which are common English words, and others which are more “Christianese” – terms we use and understand, but which those outsides of the Christian community have difficulty understanding.

To help provide clarity, it is a common practice to say . . . .

The dictionary defines this word the word COVER-UP this way — “an attempt to prevent people’s discovering the truth about a serious mistake or crime”


Let me provide my definition of this word — “It is to seek to prevent others from finding out in order to protect someone from shame, with no intent to help an individual repent.”

There is another way to provide clarity — through “descriptive behavior.”  Paul Sheppard does this in a message on James 4 . . . .


Your love will be able to cover over the exposed sin, and would be shame, of a person who you are instead called to restore.


Now here’s what he did not say . . . he didn’t say because love covers up  — a multitude of sins — see the Bible says it covers over, not — it covers up — know what I mean by the difference?


a cover-up would mean I pretend like you’re not in sin when you are

a cover-up would be I don’t speak words of rebuke when I see you in a dangerous state

a cover-up would be I don’t — sharpen your life with the truth of God’s Word

I don’t confront you in love when somebody needs to confront you


That’s a cover-up — love doesn’t cover up


Proverbs 27:6 says – Faithful are the wounds — of a friend — the wounds of a friend can be trusted when God gives you a brother or sister . . .


who loves you enough to tell you the truth

who loves you enough to sometimes shake their finger in your face and say you are wrong — you are on dangerous territory — you’re heading in the wrong direction

I love you and I don’t want to see this happen to you


love talks that way


— Paul Sheppard “Be Careful Little Mouth What You Say”

Sheppard provides concrete behavioral examples which define what it means to “cover up” versus “cover over” — behaviorally.


Here is another example by Paul Sheppard speaking about “Claiming Your Blessing.”

Some of you have a victim mentality – you’ve had it all of your life — you’re a “woe is me” kind of person.


√ You’re the kind of person who when somebody asks you – How are you — they better be ready


You know the type — You know the type — okay I’m sorry — not you but people you know and I know.  People I know fit that bill — fit that category —


 √ because they good at rehearsing everything that wrong

√ they have a knack at finding something negative.

√ You can give them a pile of positivity, but they have an innate ability to go through that pile and find something negative and pull it out

√ and point it out

√ and blow it up


You know the type of person I’m talking about


√ You can give them eleven blessings and they go complain about the twelfth trial


and if you are that way — you have that negativity — you’re prone to be negative — and be a disgruntled person and all of that – you know you don’t have to stay that way.

Again, Sheppard provides concrete behaviors which define negativity.


Obviously, one could come up with other behavioral ways something shows itself, and could also add a few more “behavioral examples.”*  Some will typically be humorous because an audience well recognizes the behaviors and because the behaviors are also usually over-stated or use hyperbole in their description.

*An excellent descriptive help concerning various emotions is found in Wayne Minnich’s book, “The Art of Persuasion.”  His discussion will help you think about ways to clarify, explain, illustrate, apply abstract concepts.


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