Far reach with troubling speech
July 1st, 2019 / By: Joshua Crutchfield | FBC Madisonville / comments
We have the ability to reach countless people within a matter of seconds. In today’s world everyone has a platform. Whether we are on social media, podcasting, or streaming videos live, we have instant access to people far and wide. Yet, what are we really accomplishing in those moments? Even as I write this, I understand just how easy it is to sit behind a screen and say whatever I want without too much fear of the repercussions for the words I type. There is safety in speaking from a distance. Unfortunately, our words fall like mortar fire, wreaking havoc on all who happen to fall under the merciless onslaught of what we tweet, blog and stream. It is unfit Christian behavior to allow our speech to go unchecked and unsanctified. The issue is not that we speak truth, but that we speak truth without love (Ephesians 4:15). In these circumstances, what should be good for building up someone in need turns into something unwholesome and harmful (Ephesians 4:29). How then can we speak to others with redeemed language that edifies the audience and glorifies God?
We must think and speak in a manner that is biblical. Not every word belongs to the public. In fact, most words appear to be meant for another person in private. If we have fault with a brother or sister, let us deal with them in the manner prescribed by Scripture and not by Twitter. Go to the one who offended you, bring someone else with you if necessary, and if you must, take it to the church (Matthew 18:15–20). We must handle our differences and disputes in a manner that is consistent with the Word of God, even if it is inconsistent with our world. Be mindful that you could be the offending party and must seek restoration with the brother or sister you have hurt (Matthew 5:23-24). We might not have access to private meetings with everyone with whom we disagree or find fault, but then if that is true, we likely do not have public access with them either. Which brings us to the next thought—save your words.
Proverbs 10:19 says, “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but the one who restrains his speech is wise.” Not everything needs to be said. And if you feel that it is necessary to speak, give careful consideration to what you say, how much you say, and how you say it. We do not win when we speak truth with hatred and anger. In many instances, it would be better for us to hold our speech than to say too much and fall into sin. The problem behind our many words is that we too often view ourselves in a better light than those with whom we differ.
We tend to see ourselves as experts. We quickly identify what is wrong with others, and spare no expense in calling them out. Here again we find help in the book of Proverbs—“The way of the fool is right in his own eyes; but the one who listens to counsel is wise” (Proverbs 12:15). As we grow in experience and grow in knowledge, one of two things can happen—we can become arrogant or humble. Unfortunately, knowledge tends to make us proud and renders us incapable of appreciating wise counsel. But the one who is humble is capable of loving in a way that builds up the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 8:1). So when we speak, we must ask, “What is motivating me to speak?”
A commitment to truth does not nullify the responsibility to speak in the manner of love (Ephesians 4:15). In fact, it is love that compels us to speak truth—love for the person we are addressing and love for the truth. If we lack love, but still speak the truth, we will be responsible for the damage caused rather than the healing that could be provided. Proverbs 12:18 makes it clear that the one who speaks harshly brings hurt, while the wise one speaks in a way that brings healing. We can be committed to the truth and speak to others in a way that compromises neither the truth nor our love for the truth and the individual. Truth sets us free (John 8:21), leads us to godliness (Titus 1:1) and brings us to Christ (John 14:6). And while truth may be a weapon against the enemy, we must remember who the enemy is, and it’s not flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12).
We may get angry on account of truth, and attempt to justify our harsh words by saying, “Jesus had righteous anger when he judged the temple.” Though we would like to compare ourselves to Jesus and his judgment of the temple and its failure to produce fruit (see Mark 12), our circumstances are likely different, and we are certainly no Jesus. Instead, let us remember that it is the peacemakers who are called “Sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). Avoid disputes that provide no real way to dialogue with context; speak truth, but with grace and love; and let the knowledge of God grow your conduct and your speech in humility. Such is the way to speak with redeemed language and for the glory of God.