Galatians 6:1-3 – Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you also won’t be tempted. 2 Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone considers himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. (HCSB)
My friend recently left the church she had attended all of her life. Her departure was a difficult decision filled with mixed emotions. She was baptized in that church. She was married in that church. Generations of her family is there – some in the pews, some in the cemetery. She loved the people and believed what they said; she just couldn’t believe how they acted. She grew up singing “Jesus Loves the Little Children”. She understood the words of the song, she understood that Jesus loves children of any color, she understood they were all precious to Him. What she didn’t understand was why they weren’t allowed to come to her church. Her church welcomed the clean, well dressed children from the two parent home and anyone who did not fit that description was welcome to go elsewhere. Church members often quoted Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the[a] glory of God”, but apparently some of the church members had Bibles that said “all of you (but not me) have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” She tried so hard to be “good” but could never quite be good enough to avoid the gossip and the chastisements. Her teen-age brain decided that if she couldn’t be “good”, she would just be “bad” and began a journey of destruction, turning her back on church and anyone associated with church. God said, “It is I who sweep away your transgressions for My own sake and remember your sins no more.” (Isaiah 43:25), but those faithful church members were taking joy in remembering the teenage sins of a now middle aged person. She was welcomed back to the church, after all she had family there, but those words of welcome were laced with reminders of her transgressions. Thankfully, she found a body of church goers than not only are in church on Sunday but church is in them the other days of the week, people who knew the difference between confronting sin and passing judgment. Jesus, You told us not to be so concerned with the speck in someone’s eye that we miss the log in our own and called us hypocrites (Matthew 7:3, Luke 6:42). Please forgive us when our words proclaim Your teachings but our actions do not. Forgive us for being more executioner than encourager and participating more in gossip than grace. I want Matthew 6:12 to be more than just words in my life. Help me to show love, kindness, and mercy to others because You show those to me everyday.
Ephesians 4:29-30: Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.
Colossians 4:6: Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.
As I’m drinking my coffee this morning and reading Ephesians 4, this verse really jumps out at me. I have an uncle who joined the Navy during WWII. He is the stereotypical sailor, and it is his image that comes to my mind whenever I hear the phrase “curses like a sailor”. Peppering his speech with curse words is so normal to him that he isn’t even aware that he does it. I think most people read Ephesians 4:29-30 with my uncle in mind and therefore think it doesn’t apply to those of us with a less seasoned vocabulary. Actually, the Greek words Paul uses here would paint a picture of something putrid, decaying, and rotten. I translate that to say “don’t be so putrid and rotten in your thoughts that your words naturally come out that way.” We have all heard, and probably most of us said, the children’s rhyme “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Eric Idle said “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will make me go in a corner and cry by myself for hours.” Sadly, I can identify more with the Eric Idle version that with the actual nursery rhyme. Herb Warren said, “sticks and stones may break the bones but leave the spirit whole, but simple words can break the heart or silence crush the soul.” My own version would be “Sticks and stones may break my bones but they will heal and be strong. Words will be forever in my head and always tell me I am wrong.” When do we use foul and dirty language? Unkind comments are foul and hurt. Gossip can destroy. Tearing someone down to build yourself up uses dirty language that contaminates everyone involved. Making comments with the intent to cause hurt is murderous. Sometimes its not the words themselves that cause the brokenness but the tone that breaks the heart. Sometimes having someone stand silently while foul comments are being made is what crushes the soul. I have a T-shirt with the words “I’m sorry for what I said. I didn’t mean for it to be out loud.” The shirt is meant to be funny but the reality is not. Luke 6:45 tells me that when putrid, decaying, rotten thoughts are in my head, they come out of my mouth. Lord, I want to always speak with love, to build up rather than tear down, to add support rather than crush. I want my language to be seasoned with the salt of Colossians 4:6. May my new rhyme be “sticks and stones may break my bones but they will heal and be strong. May my words always be filled with love and create a joyful song.”
Ephesians 4:29: “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.” (NIV)
James 4:12: There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? (HCB)
As I was drinking my coffee this morning, I was wandering around different postings on an Internet site. I came across a post that said, “We don’t refer to it as gossiping, we simply consider it sharing our opinions about other people’s life choices”. It was meant to be humorous, and I chuckled and moved on. Later I started thinking about that quote and how true it is in my life. How many times have I shared my opinion about another person’s life choices when I thought they had made the wrong choice? How many times have I shared some information about someone but dressed it in finery by calling it a prayer request? How many times have I justified gossip by telling myself of the importance of letting people know the details of what I heard so we can pray informed (or ill informed) prayers? Am I hiding a tiny spark of glee behind my mask of concern as I ask for prayer? How many times have I laughed at the old joke “if you can’t say something nice about someone, come sit by me”, but then made that joke a major part of my behavior on a daily basis? How many times have I judged someone’s actions without knowing the whole situation? How careful have I been to “share” only with others who would agree with me on the issue? Was I really concerned with building people up and meeting their needs or more interested in character assassination? When I labeled something as a “wrong choice “, was it wrong because it was a choice You didn’t agree with or wrong because it was a choice I didn’t agree with? The first part of James 4:12 says there’s only one lawmaker and judge. Even if I know the facts surrounding someone’s sin, why do I feel it is my job to reveal that sin? James 4:12 goes on to ask “who are you to judge your neighbor?” James 4:12 in The Message Bible says when I behave that way, I am writing graffiti over your message. Lord, I stand before You, humble and contrite. I could try to explain myself with much stammering and stuttering, but we both know the answers to all of those questions. Lord, I ask that You help me control my sinful tongue and only speak to benefit those who listen.