Words: to heal or to hurt

"Arms Outstretched" by C. P. Lesley used under CC license

“Arms Outstretched” by C. P. Lesley used under CC license

Whenever I hear the name of a certain congregation in the news, I cringe. This group brings shame on Christ and his church through their infamous reputation for harassment, vile rhetoric, and disruptive behavior. The world knows them by their protests, not their love.

The Lie

Somehow, these believers have convinced themselves that spewing vitriol is in line with God’s will. To paraphrase one of their leaders, they believe they are supposed to tell people that their sins will send them to hell. However, the message they send—repeatedly—is the lie that God doesn’t love sinners. That is Satan’s message to the world; Christ’s message is the opposite.

Is this congregation hoping to disciple through protest? Have they attracted even one unbeliever through picketing a graduation or a funeral? Let’s see—perhaps the widow of a veteran sees a sign condemning her dead husband and thinks to herself, “I want to know more of this merciful savior these people proclaim.” Unlikely. Do they think that a graduate of a picketed graduation ceremony is going to have an epiphany and search for Christ afterward?

Don’t they judge and slander many believers in their audience? What of the Christian widow or graduate? What of the believer who is in the world but not of it? What of the Christian friend supporting the grieving widow or the Christian parent attending the graduation?

At Odds with God’s Word

Clearly, this kind of speech–written or spoken–is at odds with God’s Word. Also, this method of delivering the message is wrong and harmful.

Paul’s teachings in Ephesians 4:25-32 directly address how Christians are to handle words:

  • Put away falsehood
  • Speak the truth
  • Be angry but do not sin
  • Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths
  • [Speak] only such as is good for building up
  • Give grace to those who hear
  • Do not grieve the Holy Spirit
  • Speak the truth in love Ephesians 4:15

And finally:

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32

Christ called us to disciple others, not to stage protests against sinners. Our words are a direct reflection of our attitudes and beliefs; words reveal the state of our heart. Hateful words don’t spring from a Spirit-filled heart.

This is my plea: Put away the bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice. Be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving. Speak the truth in love.

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