"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." - Ephesians 4:29
I know this isn't a recent problem - but I've seen a lot of "word" trouble in the news lately and well, it's bugging me. A lot.
So, here's a few of my words on words.
Our speech is a gift from God.
Our intellect is a gift from God.
Our sin-nature...........not so much.
What happens when our intellect, driven by our sin-nature creates speech?
It's not pretty.
It's very often cruel, cutting and cancerous.
It breaks hearts and destroys confidence and causes pain in a tender soul.
The cruelty of our speech is SO much more painful than a physical act of violence.
Verbal abuse and ugly words and hateful language cut so deep that all of us have wounds that even though they were caused long ago are still not fully healed.
I don't even need to ask you to think hard about it - it takes me all of about 5 seconds to recall something hurtful said to me by someone who loved me.
And I'm not even going to address what's been said about me by people who didn't love me.
The Bible has a LOT to say about words and the power of our words. The book of James tells us this:
"The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell." - James 3:6
I don't know about you, but that makes me sit up and pay attention.
The tongue is "set on fire by hell"! It "sets the whole course of one's life on fire"! Seriously?? Um, yeah.
There's a reason that it's often said that "gossip spreads like wildfire". And we've all been burned by reckless speech at some point.
Listen, more than anything Satan wants to cause division and pain and hurt in any relationships we have. He's not looking to help us make and keep friends - he wants to destroy every good thing in our lives.
What better way to do it than through the way we talk to and about each other??
Kindness and compassion and empathy and sympathy aren't part of his vocabulary. Satan seeks to do more than break our bones with sticks and stones - he seeks to crush our spirits and our hope by pitting us against each other to the point that we don't trust in or care about anyone. Even ourselves.
The world around us is oftentimes an obscenely ugly place. It's filled with anger and bitterness and hatred directed at those we don't like or don't agree with or don't understand.
And Satan loves every minute of that ugliness. He's the ruler of this world - remember?
Ephesians 6:11-12 reminds us:
"Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."
Every day we can find stories of people on different sides of issues; conflicting ideology; cultural opposites saying some pretty vile things about the ones on the opposing sides.
Nastiness knows no political party.
It doesn't differentiate between religions.
Is unable to recognize sex or race or nationality.
Verbal abuse is a heart issue. It's an indication that something isn't right in the heart and mind of those who would choose to degrade others with their language.
Mockery is commonplace in today's society. Hateful slang and hurtful labels affect us all.
But just because it affects us all doesn't mean that we have to retaliate like a wounded animal. That solves nothing and really doesn't make us feel better either. Not in the long run.
So what do we do?
As Christians our first response should be to examine ourselves.
Check out the state of our own hearts. Because as hard as it may be to accept, Christians are just as guilty as any non-Christian of rude and offensive words. We may have been redeemed and forgiven, but our sin-nature still exists and any Christian who claims to not fight daily battles with it is either fooling themselves or not a Christian at all.
Christians also need to pray about the attitudes we carry about others. Pray that God will give us love that shows itself in kindness and consideration - especially if we don't agree with someone.
No one was ever won over to the love of Christ by rudeness and condescension. And if we who profess to love and follow Christ don't ACT like it - how can we expect anyone else to want the "Christian" life?
We also can't expect non-Christians to act like Christians - or at least what Christ-followers are supposed to act like.
Instead we need to commit to pray for them; asking God to change their hearts and minds to be like His.
Since verbal abuse is a heart issue - only a heart change is going to make a difference.
So when we hear a comedian make an unconscionable statement couched in a "joke" - we need to consider that they quite likely aren't a Christ-follower.
When we hear the political pundit make disparaging statements about members of the opposition - stop and consider that they may have never experienced the grace and forgiveness of the Savior.
When you read about the latest celebrity gaffe or past insensitive remarks - consider that their world view may not have contained a picture of the Jesus who died for them.
Cruel, unkind words will always hurt.
The love of Christ will always heal.
And those are words you can count on.
With a Courageous Heart,