Those who were raised in the church are very familiar with the Third Commandment, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” We were taught that using God’s name as a curse or oath is sin. This is true, yet simply avoiding the use of God’s name or faux versions of it in our expletives isn’t the all-encompassing truth of the Commandment. In addition, Paul warns… Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that all your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. (Ep 4:29) In addition to not throwing God’s name around as if it were some empty expression, we are to watch all the words that pass our lips. Words wound, they mark those who hear them, even if they are untrue, such as the taunting of a bully, or cutting criticism of a loved one. We would talk a lot less if we thoughtfully considered our words before we speak them. We need to sift our words through Paul’s strainer. Is it unoffensive, clean, good, helpful, and/or encouraging? If not, hold your tongue! I don’t know whose words these are, but their truth is profound: Think more about what you say and say less about what you think!
2 Ti 2:14-17; Ge 1:1-3; 1 Ti 6:4-5; Lk 6:45; Ps 139:23
Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. (2 Ti 2:14) Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. (2 Ti 2:16)
In your conversation consider these rules of engagement: 1) Respect the Imago Dei (image of God). Every person is made in the image of God, fearfully and wonderfully. Every person matters to God, so they should also matter to you. Don’t dehumanize those with whom you disagree or don’t understand. Respect them because they are made in God’s image, just as you are. 2) Be quick to listen, slow to speak/post. Add value to your conversation, by being someone who is profoundly interested in the people with whom you interact. You don’t always need to agree; you probably won’t, but try to understand where the other person is coming from and be loving. 3) Keep and eternal perspective. If being right is your focus you can easily forget about the eternal outcome of your interaction. If there is a barrier between you and the other person, pray for guidance in you say; work to remove the barrier. 4) Speak with grace and truth. Don’t agree with something that goes against what you believe in, but be gracious. Scripture says we are to be as innocent as doves but as wise as serpents. If your main goal is to influence people for Jesus Christ, you will commit to never shame, blame, embarrass or hurt anyone. Work to connect with others and always let love be your motive.
Name a time when you or someone else said something that caused irreparable damage? How carefully do you weigh your words before you speak? Are you conscious of your motives when you offer advice, counsel or correction? How do we de-humanize people with whom we disagree? How can we keep this from happening? How do you interact with someone whose political, social or religious beliefs are in direct opposition to your own? How do you reach them for Christ?
Think before you speak, respond or comment! How good, helpful and encouraging will your words be? If you take God’s name in vain, use offensive language, tell jokes or make comments that are inappropriate, and do not reflect the goodness our Heavenly Father expects, purge them from your vocabulary. Be patient, just start one conversation at a time. With practice and God’s help, you will change, and your change will influence those around you.
Thank you, Lord, for the beautiful name of Jesus! Help me to honor your name by speaking words that are filled with life and hope, reflecting the love and mercy you have given me. Guide my interaction with others and keep my perspective on eternity. Help me to recognize the great value you place on each and every person. May your love flow in and through me. In Jesus Name I pray, Amen!