“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” (Ephesians 4:29).
Loving others through what we say. We can never take for granted just how powerful our words are. They can easily tear down, humiliate, destroy, undermine, shock, crush, exasperate or defile someone’s spirit. On the other hand, they can encourage, build up, strengthen, honor, praise, uphold, empower, embolden, and set free a person’s spirit as well. The Bible refers to a person’s tongue as a sword, apt imagery for something so powerful. Often I am discouraged at how carelessly people act towards what they say to others. Too often we think little about our words and their impact on the people we are talking to. We are too consumed with getting our point across, accomplishing our agenda, having our say, impressing others with what we know, or simply intimidating and manipulating those around us. Despite all of the painful ways we have been hurt by words, it is too easy in our society to forget that we have the very same power.
That is why this verse can never be emphasized enough. Our words are one of the primary ways that we can communicate our love for someone. It is not enough to think “well they know that I love them, no reason to say it.” It is not about knowing, but about experiencing love that makes it so powerful. We all need to experience this love through the words that are communicating to us. Two things that stand out to me that are often overlooked in this verse. 1) We need to build one another up “according to their needs” (i.e. we need to encourage and affirm others as they need, not necessarily the way we want to be affirmed). 2) “That it might benefit those who listen.” This is especially important for families. Too often parents are unaware the impact their communications have on their children. They are so caught up in their anger, frustration, and hurt that they feel compelled to voice it in unhealthy or destructive ways. Although this might make you feel better at that moment, long term it has a powerful impact on your children, who are listening whether we like it or not. Bad habits are hard to break. Bad communication habits are no different. It takes vigilance and a strong desire to communicate love, to encourage and affirm others, to make this kind of change. But it is so worthwhile. God has opened his heart to us, shared his love with us, and changed many of us in ways we could only have dreamed of. Let’s all take time to regard our words as so important that we strive to use this power that God has granted us to communicate that very same love to those whom God has placed in our lives.
(For a deeper understanding of God’s love and the power it has to help us to love others, come join us for worship every Sunday at 8 & 10 AM. This summer we are looking at the great Faith of women in the Bible and how adopting their faith can not only strengthen ours but enable us to love deeply).
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