Have you ever been hurt by someone speaking reckless lies about you? Maybe you made a mistake, and you've ran into the one person on earth who is positive they have the complete right to be your judge, jury, and executioner? Or, possibly, you've found that more people than you're comfortable with feel they have that right? Recently, I have heard several people in my life recall some memories that are a little painful. The pain wasn't physical, but strictly emotional. No one was struck; no brute force was applied. The only weapon used was the tongue of someone who had a heart full of things holding far less worth than that of love or compassion.
Luke 6:45 (ESV) says, “…for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” The NIV is a little more direct: “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”
Words flowing from a sinful heart cause damage. These words can be decisively coupled together to form destructive statements that inflict far more damage to another fragile soul than a physical blow could ever deliver. Words are powerful, and they reveal the true intentions hidden not so deep inside of our heart...so frequently revealing an ugliness that delicately exists just beneath the surface of a friendly smile or a firm handshake. When that ugliness is aroused, the words produced can be very dangerous things.
Our call as disciples of Christ does not include the directives of arrogance, hatefulness, gossip, or the belittling of those who have made mistakes. At our very best, we all live lives full of errors, failures, and bad choices. It is for this reason that Christ had to drape Himself upon an instrument of torture...suffer and die a horrendous death...to pay for the cost that our sin and personal failures would bring into our life. For the child of God, those personal failures of sin have already been forgiven, yet we still see people who seek to reopen the case of forgiveness and deliberate a new verdict to suit their own opinion of justice...opinions held in the complete ignorance of the power of grace and mercy…opinions grounded in our sin nature…opinions that are unapologetically self-serving. It’s important to note that Jesus did not die on the cross in the defense of our opinions; He died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sin. Let that fact temper our opinions and the words we speak relaying them.
Why does mankind seek to judge again that which Christ has already paid for on the cross?
The cross of Christ, the place where justice met grace, is dismantled in our life when we seek to be the judge, jury, and executioner of those who have made a mistake or crossed paths with our own very delicate opinions and personal agenda. It is not our place to demean or retry a persons worth or value following our awareness of a mistake or indiscretion in their life. And, particularly, we should certainly not seek to demean them simply because we hold a differing opinion or we fail to get our own way. It's a practice of throwing Christ off the throne of Lordship in our life, taking His rightful place as judge, and sentencing those who vex us to another crucifixion. We love driving nails through the worth and character of those we view in contempt of our plans.
The value of all men was accessed on the cross, as Jesus determined their worth to be great enough to die for. In the light of that sacrifice, why would we dare to entertain the self-serving notion that our opinion even matters? How pompous can we be in our dealings with those we are called to love, as we offer to them a forgiveness based solely on our own exclusive terms of outcome and judgement? When has God called us to execute the character of our fellow man, or define his worth before others, based off of our own opinions? Is the price of love and compassion so high that the shallowness of our Christian character can't afford it, or do we simply just love to pour salt into open wounds? Sadly, I believe our motives often exist in the shadows of simple meanness. We love to play the game of diminishing the worth and character of those we see as opponents to our own personal cause and agenda. Foolish. Dangerous. Stupid.
Our discipleship of those around us should be undertaken with a heart that is full of compassion. Our correction of bad behavior should be based on the truth found within God's word and not on satisfying our arrogant need to point out the failure of others...as if we live lives of perfection? He without sin, cast the first stone…
Consequently, I've thrown many stones in my life. Some have hit the mark and caused undeserved grief in the life of another. At the time, I felt like my objectives had been met. I felt a bigger person, possibly even better, because I had justified my own bad behavior by belittling another. I was foolish. I'm not entirely over that desire in my life, but I've done a lot of growing since I found that practice something acceptable within my own superficial walk with Christ. Thank God for His grace, His forgiveness, and His pursuit of me in spite of my sin through my own developing walk with the Lord. It's often a struggle.
We live around people who are prone to error. If you don't see that...look in the mirror. The person you see there is the one you should concentrate on. When I look in my own mirror, I see a very flawed man. If you don’t see your flaws, get a better mirror. Don’t overlook the log in your own eye...because I assure you it's there. (Matthew 7:3-5) We are all full of sin...everyone. It's important that we see others through the eyes of a Savior who loved them enough to die for them and their mistakes. Christ did not die to bring justification to our own reckless words concerning others. He died, in part, as an example to us in how to treat others. We should pay close attention to that example, and our words should fall within the shadow of the mercy and grace afforded us on Calvary.
Let us all be warned and respond accordingly in our life and our words...
"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 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 in Christ forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:29-32 (ESV)
Again, Christ didn’t die on the cross in the defense of our shallow opinions. Too often our opinions turn into malignant words of hate and bitterness. We should be careful. What if Jesus loved us and forgave us with the same compassion in which we speak to, talk about, and judge each other? Words are powerful; they can be dangerous, and they can utterly destroy the life of another.
Whether we see bad behavior in another, someone has offended our own will, or we simply don't like another, we should first qualify our words with standards of God's own grace and mercy. Speak the truth in love, but be sure that it’s the truth. Any words spoken that are not grounded in truth have the ability to do great damage, specifically when spewed forth from a heart full of sin.
Just a reminder that we are called to serve God...not be God. Love each other, and be compassionate in your words spoken about others...specifically when they are spoken in the mirage of safety behind their back. Bad news, the flu, and gossip travels fast. When we don't control our words, we're often exposed. And, typically, our own malicious words do more to hurt us than we might realize.
Keith Beatty is a Worship, Missions and Media Pastor living in North Alabama. He's excited and very humbled to be a follower of Jesus Christ!