“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” (Ephesians 4:14-15 NIV, emphasis added)
In this season of public discord and divisiveness, with so much negativity assaulting us on the airwaves and the Internet, I thought I’d let the Word speak for itself on the matter of speaking. I know I am often guilty of rushing to defend myself, when perhaps staying silent is the most loving thing I could do. Of course God wants us to speak out for justice, on behalf of the oppressed (Proverbs 31:8), but he doesn’t need us to defend him. We represent him best with loving actions.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1 NIV)
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. (James 3:9-10 NIV)
Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies. (Psalm 34:12-13 NIV)
Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin. (Proverbs 13:3 NIV)
Finally, this verse speaks to our motives. God says to the prophet Ezekiel,
“When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood.” (Ezekiel 3:18 NIV, emphasis added)
I’m not sure whether this verse necessarily applies to everyone or only to those whom God has given a specific word for a specific person, or perhaps even only to Ezekiel. But I do see God’s heart there — he wants the wicked to repent. When we share God’s word with others, are we truly seeking their good and hoping they’ll repent? Or do we secretly want to prove that we’re right and they’re wrong? Or worse, do we just want them to change their behavior, and we don’t care what’s going on in their hearts? I think making a quick gut-check before engaging in a debate with someone is important. If we seek to persuade, let it not be for our own egos, but with love and for the other person’s good.
Abigail can be reached by email here.