As my faith in Christ has matured over the past five or so years, I’ve really begun to see how affected I am by the words Christians use, both with fellow Christians and non-believers. How we speak to those around us obviously speaks volumes to our place with Christ, but also to our love for those people.

In 1 Peter 4, Peter encourages us to “keep loving one another earnestly,” including in how we speak: “whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God.”

This really hits home for me because, with the social media-led world I’ve grown up in, it can really bother me how Christians are perceived by those who aren’t. As believers, we still don’t always speak to people, we just speak at them — and there’s a serious difference.

Speaking at people is telling them what they should or shouldn’t do. It’s complaining about the kind of clothes someone wears, the music they listen to or what they do on the weekends. This language never comes from a place of love, normally it’s about how a person isn’t living or behaving the way we wish they would.

There’s a desperate need to save lost souls and to speak the truth of Scripture into their lives, but it’s the way in which we do these things that says everything about Christians. We don’t need to tell people what they should be doing by speaking at them.

We need to tell people who are they are by speaking to them.

We need to tell people about the love Jesus Christ has for them — a love so deep that he was willing to die the most painful death imaginable so they might one day receive salvation in him.

Spend less time pointing out the ways in which those around you live differently from you or don’t meet your expectations of a Christian life and spend more time telling them who they are: loved.

As writer and speaker Bob Goff says, “We’ll become in our lives whoever people we love the most say we are.”

If you want you and those around you to become more like Christ, love them the way he would — starting with how you speak to them.