March 29, 2017 | by: 0 Comments|
In this message I’m writing a short sermon to myself disguised as a letter to you.
Brothers and Sisters,
Our culture esteems those who speak their minds, as if doing so is virtuous. Is it? Perhaps your gut reaction is, “No.” Maybe “be slow to speak” from James 1:19 comes to mind. Even better, “The tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.” That is James 3:6. I’ve often said that one of the legitimate applications of the speech passages in the book of James is that we should “button our beaks.”
But Paul doesn’t “button his beak” in the book of Galatians. He speaks his mind, and boy does he give it to the churches of Galatia! I think that if we could hear Paul reading that letter it would sound a lot like yelling at times. Compare this to how gently Paul pleads with Philemon to receive Onesimus (his runaway slave) back as a beloved brother. Paul asks ever so gently that Philemon not punish Onesimus, and he seems to implicitly ask Philemon to set Onesimus free.
So reflecting on Paul’s letter to the Galatians and Paul’s letter to Philemon, what should we do? Should we hold our tongues or let them loose? It depends. It depends on a whole host of things. Can I give you a few guideposts for thinking through how we as Christians ought to speak?
Guidepost #1 – Speak as one motivated by love for God (Matthew 22:37).
Guidepost #2 – Speak as one motivated by love for others (Matthew 22:39).
Guidepost #3 – Speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
Guidepost #4 – Speak stainless words (Ephesians 4:29).
Guidepost #5 – Speak to build up (Ephesians 4:29).
Guidepost #6 – Speak as the occasion requires (Ephesians 4:29).
Guidepost #7 – Speak so as to give grace (Ephesians 4:29).
Guidepost #8 – Speak with a person’s spiritual maturity in view (1 Thessalonians 5:14).
These guideposts reveal that the Lord requires that we think before we speak. When preparing to speak, the Lord requires of us a kind of relational and situational calculus that is not sinful, but positively loving. Love for God and others on some occasions will lead us to close our lips and hold our tongues. On other occasions, love for God and others will demand that we not remain silent. Depending on the gravity of the situation (perhaps especially when theological error is overt and unorthodox) it may be appropriate for our words to be particularly sharp, but even then, the aim of our speech must be redemptive and restorative in nature. More often than not though, I suspect that we ought to take the time to choose our words carefully, and to do so for the sake of love.
O Lord, fill our hearts with love. Love for you and others. Lead us to fear you and speak the truth in love. Cleanse our hearts and guard our tongues from evil and our lips from speaking lies. Give us words that glorify you and edify others. Give us the right words, redemptive words, at the right time. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
Warmly in Christ,
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