Far too often men and women will unleash their anger on the people closest to them. Perhaps it is someone in the family, a friend, or someone at church. What transpires is often hurtful, damaging, and sinful.
- The young couple who unleash their fury on one another cussing at one another and calling one another vile, degrading names. Yes, this couple is typically in church on Sunday.
- The teenage boy who torments his insecure sister making fun of her weight and appearance. Yet, this same young man is often known as a very sweet and kind boy by some of his teachers at school.
- A group of people went into an elders’ meeting one evening angrily demanding that the preacher be fired. At one point, one of them cussed and demanded the elder group do what he requested. Yet this same group will later tell you that they “love” every one of these elders.
- The married adult daughter of an older woman in the church regularly talks harshly to her mother. Her mother is in poor health. Yet, this daughter is often rude, abrupt, and hurtful. Among many of her friends, however, she is known as sensitive and kind.
- A man in the congregation verbally attacks a friend whom he has known for years. His friend was stunned at the man’s accusations. A week later, the same man acted as if nothing had ever happened.
It is almost like we give ourselves special permission to talk to particular people in a manner that we would never speak to most people in our lives. We will say things like “I know I shouldn’t say this, but . . . .” What comes after the “but” is often deadly to a relationship.
Some seem to think that the words or behavior of another gives them the right to say what they want in return.
Not exactly the way of Jesus.
Paul said long ago:
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. (Eph. 4:29-32)
One of the fastest ways to damage a perfectly good relationship is through “unwholesome talk.” This kind of talk might be fueled by bitterness, rage, and anger. There are people who blatantly disregard this teaching because they are going to say what they want to say regardless. God, however, has modeled something very different in Christ. He calls upon us to forgive just as in Christ, he forgave us.
We are called to be gracious, kind, and compassionate. Compassion isn’t just for people who are on the margins of society. We are called to be compassionate toward our spouses, our parents, our children. Maybe we even need to treat our congregations with some kindness and compassion.
We are called to Gospel living. I have the opportunity to bear witness to the goodness of God by the way I treat my family, my friends, and the people in my congregation.
Before you say to another what you are thinking, you might ask yourself:
- Is what I am about to say to my dad, my mom, my friend, etc. kind?
- Is what I am about to say going to build someone up or will it bring them to tears?
- As others (including my children) hear me speak to people in this way, how badly does this hurt my Christian witness?
- Do my tone of voice, my attitude, and my words reflect the character of the good and gracious God?