We have six grandchildren eight years of age and under. Just a few weeks ago, we spent five days on the beach in the same house with our grandchildren. It was a grand experience, but periodically, challenging. Why?
One would say words to another that were not always uplifting. No one taught them to do that, they have a nature problem. We have a nature problem – our nature is sinful. And many times, just as Jesus said, what is in the heart comes out, usually through the words we use with other people. From children to teenagers to adults, we all have testimonies about how the words of others have hurt us.
Words that build up and words that tear down
There is probably no one alive who hasn’t experienced the power of words to hurt feelings and wound souls. Many children grow into adulthood forever scarred by parents, who never abused them physically, but never ceased abusing them through bitter, angry, or careless words.
Dr. Thom Rainer writes in Bible Studies for Life, “You and I can both remember a time – maybe even recently – when someone said something that slipped past our defenses and struck home. Maybe it was a casual comment. Maybe it was a direct attack. Either way, we can still feel the emotional wound where those words cut with the sharpness of a knife.”1 Yes, it even happens to adults.
The book of Ephesians speaks to how we use words. “No foul language is to come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear…All bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander must be removed from you, along with all malice.” (4:29, 31) The Christian life is advertised by Christian lips. What is in us comes out through our words. It is imperative our words be used for building up rather than for tearing down.
What gentleness can build, anger can destroy
Anger is a problem for many believers. Anger is compounded when it manifests itself in angry outbursts, unkind words, or judgmental responses. The love of Christ manifests itself in strengthening speech, just as the fruit of the Spirit is gentleness. What gentleness can build, anger can destroy.
The way we talk to others either connects us or disconnects us in a relationship. When we are in small groups for community, we have the opportunity to encourage those who are hurting. These opportunities must be taken! The world is a difficult place to live, with attacks from every side. Scripture warns that Satan desires to devour followers of God (1 Peter 5:). The last thing Christians need is to be devoured by other Christians.
Questions that open doors
As we think about connecting with others by having a meaningful relationship, consider how you might use words to connect with people. What kind of questions open doors rather than closing them? Questions such as:
- Did you have a good week?
- Has God blessed you in some special way recently?
- Is there a specific way I can pray for you this week?
- Can I pray with you about that issue at work you were talking about in our small group?
- I’m available this week if you’d like to get together and talk about it. What time is good for you?
Go the extra mile this week with someone else. Learn the power of connecting with other people by using words that bring life rather than death. This is what builds marriages, families, churches, and communities. To God’s glory, use your words to nourish others this week.
Yours for the Great Commission,
Ronnie W. Floyd