Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up ]as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice,and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.
Imagine a world where people used words, spoken and written, only for what was encouraging. Imagine a world where bitterness and wrath and anger were put away. Instead, we build one another up. Instead, we are kind and forgiving. I want to live in that world.
I was watching the news the other night and briefly listened to a reporter trying to muster his patience as the person he was interviewing repeatedly interrupted him, ridiculed him, and offered nothing but malice and slander and anger. I quickly switched off the screen. I felt my pulse quicken and blood pressure go up. As I stood there in silence I realized I was mad but I was also in disbelief. How have we come to this? How much lower will we stoop?
Paul’s wisdom to the people of Ephesus is what we need spoken and modeled today. Note that Paul did not say put away all differences of opinion; that is unrealistic. Rather he said put away all bitterness, wrath and anger, all wrangling, slander and malice. Imagine with me, watching the world in the midst of a pandemic and hearing discourse that was tenderhearted and full of forgiveness. Imagine words that only built and never tore down.
Our faith isn’t about a concept of an altruistic utopia. It’s about action. So now is when we move from imagining to modeling. While there is malice and slander there is kindness and forgiveness too. I’ve seen examples of leaders, on the screen and off, who simply rise above. They use their words to encourage and to offer grace to those who hear them. I’m sure they have other words in their mind. They might have a bloody tongue 80% of the time, but what comes out, in word or in writing, is founded in kindness. As you hear the current rhetoric played out and it makes you cringe, and turn off the TV, remember these words of Paul. Remember, imagine, and then model yourself the wisdom he teaches. Build one another up. Lead with kindness. We have a choice when it comes to our words, so let us choose as Paul instructs.
Prayer: God help us change the climate through our own modeling. Help us to speak truth in kindness and to lead with love.