I honestly believe miscommunication to be the cause of much discord among friends, family, co-workers, church members, etc. because we have become a careless people with our speech. We rarely clarify ourselves, we say much more than we need to, and we've become a people who praise the loudest tongue in the group for being "bold, assertive, and telling it just like it is." I wander at what point did being rude, obnoxious, and hurtful became a quality that we admire? Indeed there are times to be bold and assertive, and there are times "to tell it like it is." But, when we are damaging lives, alienating others, hurting the public testimony of the church, and representing our God and Savior in the most horrible of ways, we need to re-examine our speech.
I think most will be familiar with the multitude of Proverbs written in regard to the dangers of a loose tongue, gossip, slander, etc. Most can recite James' Epistle in which he likened the tongue unto a small flame that sets ablaze a large fire that destroys everything in it's path. Most will inform you that you should "speak the truth in love." I'm constantly hearing sermons on 1st Corinthians 13, and hearing about the need to love in word and deed. If we as Christians are so familiar with these texts, why are we saying the things we are saying that seem to exemplify the opposite of love?
Here is something I hear quite often, "Just read Matthew 23, and you'll see the example Jesus gave of how to witness when he nailed the Scribes and Pharisees to the wall! He sure wasn't all lovey dovey with them!" Then it's always followed with either "...and Peter flat called the Jews a bunch of murderers in Acts 2" or the old "Paul called false teachers like Hymenaeus and Philetus gangrene, just go read 2nd Timothy!" These scripture passages are often used as excuses to call people such vile things as morons, devils, idiots, and a few other things I wont repeat, all in the name of "not compromising Biblical truth."
Let me clarify there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a deep running passion for the truth of God's word. I would pray that all men everywhere would diligently search the scriptures, and be passionate in presenting it's salvation message to others. We should be ever ready to give an answer to the unbelieving world when we are put on trial for our faith, and should it happen we should earnestly contend for the faith! We should make known heresies as gangrene, and if needed to protect the flock of God we should name those who are teaching such damnable doctrines. HOWEVER, our passionate proclamation of truth must always be coupled together with meekness, love, compassion, and fear!
Meekness carries the idea of control. Nothing rages out of control any faster than our tongue. It is a slippery serpent which reveals our sinful heart at every given opportunity. Perhaps the admonition to speak less and listen more would save us all much heartache and woe. How often have we allowed a few moments of unbridled spewing by our "little member" ruin our entire day? How often has the poison of our tongue driven someone farther away from any interest in the things of God, rather than being used of God to proclaim Him? I dare to say we are all guilty of not controlling our tongue. Our very nature is revealed in our speech for from the abundance of our heart, the mouth speaks. Paul stated in Titus 2:8 that his speech should be of such soundness that he never be condemned because of it. He told Titus in the conclusion of that verse that sound Godly speech puts his opposition to shame in a manner that no one could speak evil of it. When we finish "contending for the faith" and even the unbelievers around us are condemning the way we speak, we've failed in this imperative.
Love must saturate all we do. Love for God, and love for others. All the law and prophets hang upon these two commands. Love does not compromise, is not coated in sentimental hypocrisy, and does not rejoice in evil. Love also does not belittle, aimlessly rant, and express itself in a vile and heartless manner. Love seeks to express the truth in such a manner that the wicked are warned, the righteous are encouraged, and the world is compelled and commanded to repent and believe, and it does so without wrath, vengeance, malice, and bitterness intervening.
Compassion for those in error, and compassion for the lost should not even be discussed. When we consider the mire from which we were raised from death to walk in newness of life, we should be overwhelmed with compassion for others. But for the grace of God, there goeth I.
Fear must govern our speech. Rather, let me interpret my use of the term fear to mean reverence. We should so revere the Holy Scripture that we treat it and express it in a most careful manner. As we speak God's truth we should be reminded of the Supreme Judge which shall hold each man accountable who speaks on His behalf. While Paul rightly asserted in Galatians 1 that his example was not that of preaching to please men, but rather he preached to pleaset God, and that he even withstood Peter over a dispute about Gentiles and Jews, Paul never stooped to screaming slurs toward Peter or anyone else. Paul understood the weight of bearing upon our shoulders the message of God. Therefore he governed his speech, and chose his words wisely.
We can and should proclaim what we believe, and we should be ready to earnestly contend for the faith. We should be passionate in doing so, and eager to do so in a manner that glorifies God, edifies the church, and proclaims the Gospel to the lost. Yet, as we do so I pray we keep the following statements in mind...
1Timothy 4:12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.
Titus 2:7-8 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.
Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
1 Peter 3:8-11 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For "Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.