Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. . . Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Eph 4:29, 32).
So why aren’t our words gracious and forgiving? Why do we feel the need to say more? Why do we feel we must shout the truth instead of whisper it? Why do our conversations go so quickly from gracious and forgiving to manipulative and harsh?
We might say we’re just trying to get our point across, but I’ve been wondering if the underlying cause is too much confidence in our words and too little confidence in God’s Word.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb 4:12).
If God’s Word is sufficient to discern the thoughts and intents of another’s heart, then my role is nothing more than to dispense the truth; depending on the Holy Spirit to use it to bring about change. Certainly I should communicate it in a way that is winsome and gracious with a readiness to forgive. The point is: I am not the instrument of change in another’s life. God is.
How might my speech be altered, if I really believed that a Bible passage had more power to bring change than my words, my argument, my logic, my passion, my sarcasm, my silence? Here are three acknowledgments of this truth:
I don’t need to bring harsh words. Words are like scalpels. They can be beneficial in a surgical procedure, but they can also cut, and cut deep. As I have studied anger in the Scriptures and examined it in my own life I have found it to be manipulative. It isn’t a healing element. It is a manipulative one. Harsh words are used to convince another how they have hurt us, and how they need to change for our sake. Let’s see, we hurt them, so that they will stop hurting us…hmmm?
I don’t need to speak exaggerated words. Sometimes we stretch our words, or conveniently leave something out to make a stronger case. Do we really mean that a person does that ALL the time? While it might be true that they lied to us does that make them a LIAR? If I call them a name, am I not saying I believe they’re characterized by the action? Is there anything gracious about name calling? The power to change another is not in the exaggeration of my words, but in the clarity of God’s Word appropriately applied.
I don’t need to have the last word. I don’t need to send one last salvo as I walk away from the conversation. I can give the Holy Spirit time, and he will continue working on the heart even in my absence. Perhaps when I insist on the last word I’m only sending notice to the Holy Spirit that what I have to say is more important than what he has to say. Might it be better to close the conversation simply with “I’m praying for you”? And mean it. And do it.
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome, but kind…correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to knowledge of the truth . . . (2 Tim. 2:24-25).