I absolutely loved this message. Today’s message focused on the things that come out of our mouth, and by extension we can include the things we type, post, tweet, and share online.
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
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. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:25-32 NIV, Source: BibleGateway.com)
There is so much in here that it’s hard to know where to begin.
Our lesson began by posing the question “Why should you try to resolve anger issues quickly?” This is a great starting point for a lesson on words because more often then not it seems that the things we say that get us in the most trouble are often done based on pure emotion. There are the obvious reactions we have to unresolved emotion and conflict: lashing out, venting on people who don’t deserve it… the list goes on and on. What is a bit harder to identify is when the words coming out of our mouths are acceptable by society’s standards but not by the higher standard we are called to live by.
When was the last time you saw a status update on Facebook that sounded something like this: ‘Some people need to learn how to be more considerate of others! Urg, work!‘ Before I shut down my Facebook account for good, I saw this stuff almost daily. At first glance, that sounds like a pretty harmless statement, right? Consider this: in a small community like Bowling Green, most people see and hear almost everything that everyone else says and does. I imagine that ‘some people‘ are going to know who you are talking about. ‘Some people‘ are likely not going to react positively to being called out in such a passive-aggressive way. How do you think that hurts your ministry to ‘some people‘ when your current fight is over?
At the end of the day, the words we use should be measured to the standard Paul explains in verse 32 above:
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32 NIV)
If we measure our Facebook status about ‘some people‘ against this standard, can we still say we are being compassionate? What about forgiving? Sometimes the things we say may not seem all that terrible but still manage to deeply hurt the emotions of others or the effectiveness of our ministry. If we hold the things we say, and the words we share online, to the standard of only things that ‘may benefit those who listen’ (verse 29), then all of the sudden the distance between what society says is acceptable and what Christ admonishes us to do starts getting wider and wider.
Let’s take care that the things we say contain words that hold no malice towards others and serve only to build up those around us. That way, all who hear what we have to say would be encouraged by our spirits and realize that something far larger than us drives every corner of our lives.