Words which build up…..
Another reflection from my friend Davy Blackburn. You can read more of his work here.
Think before you speak
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 4:29-32)
I think when we read this verse we immediately think it only refers to cursing, or speaking in anger or again, insulting people. Some times though it is the things we say with no bad intention which cause the greatest offense. Not long after I started attending church in my mid 20’s, I attended a meal at my church. I was unemployed at the time. Even when I wasn’t unemployed I worked in very low paid jobs but I provided for my family and never felt inferior, although it certainly was a culture shock being in a church full of lawyers, bankers, architects, teachers and a procurator fiscal. I did sometimes feel a little out of place though everyone tried to make me feel included.
During the meal, a deacon said to me “you won’t be used to food like this normally, eh Davy!” At first it didn’t bother me too much, but as the days passed I thought to myself, what a cheek, how insulting and patronizing. I told my wife at the time, and I couldn’t let it go. It began to grow resentment in my mind. Eventually I wrote a letter to the person concerned, but in the end never posted it, nor did I ever speak to him about it. That is one method which helps in a lot of cases, and actually though it helped it was not my original intention, I really did want to send it. I have wondered if this incident still affects me as it has been many years and I still remember it. But to answer my own question, no I do not think it affects me anymore.
However the reason I bring it up is to show how long a word out of season can stick in someone’s mind. How many conversations can you remember having 30 years ago? Probably very few, and yet I remember this one vividly. I also realise the words were never meant to hurt, in fact they were probably meant to make me feel good that I was surrounded with this lovely food. To be honest I didn’t like much of it as cold pasta and other normally hot food cooled down is not really my thing. But I hold no grudges and accept it was not meant to hurt or insult.
Paul in speaking about the deliberate derogatory words and actions which should not be a characteristic of a Christian, and where it is should be taken to God with a heart to seek a better way, perhaps allows Christians to focus on the things you may not do, swearing, shouting, drunkenness etc but if we concentrate on what we do not do, are we being careful about the hurtful things we might do or say, even without deliberate intention? If what James says is true, that no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. (James 3:8) then we need to rise above our humanity and take on the Spirit of God to help us in our efforts to speak as Christ would: James 3:8