REDISCOVERING THE ANCIENT PATH—Week of August 29, 2021
Use Your Words to Build Up Others in Love: Eph. 4:29
We are in Week 30 of our examination of Benedict Nursia’s rules for Christian formation. This week we are examining Rules 4.51-52: Use Your Words to Build Up Others in Love. We live in an unprecedented time for human communication. Through social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, we have constant access to hundreds, if not thousands, of people. With a click of a button, we have the ability to share with the world our hopes, dreams, thoughts, and opinions on any topic at any time. Now, more than ever, we must heed the admonition that our words carry weight.
The book of Ephesians is a fantastic little theological treatise written by Paul while he was imprisoned in Rome. The first 3 chapters explain who we are in Christ, or what it means to be a Christian. The last 3 chapters outline practically how being a Christian should impact our lives and our relationships with others. In Ephesians 4:29, Paul directly addresses the importance of our words and the impact they have on others and the unity of the Church. According to Paul, this is how we use our words to build up others in love:
- Guard against unwholesome talk. While many use this admonition in the context of vulgarities, which is appropriate, the context in the Greek is so much richer than that. Interestingly, this same Greek word translated “unwholesome” is used by Jesus in Matt. 7 and 12 when he speaks of how a diseased (unwholesome or corrupt) tree cannot bear good fruit. The Greek word that is translated “proceed” is specifically used in the context of spreading rumors or spreading something abroad. Taken together, the idea is this: don’t be a vector for verbal disease. Whether it be vulgarity, gossip, demeaning speech or tone, misinformation, or even opinion, check your heart before speaking. If the speech is rooted in your sin nature, it will tear down and sow discord. If it’s rooted in the gospel, it will bring life and peace.
- Speak edifying words. Though this concept seems simple, it is completely countercultural. We live in the age of the “roast,” where whole television programs are built around the concept of attacking someone for a laugh. As believers, we should be different. We should measure our words to make sure they add value to those who hear them, encouraging the hearers in their growth as a follower of Christ. If what we have to say doesn’t do that, we should likely keep it to ourselves.
- Judge the timeliness of your words. It’s not enough to guard the content of our speech. We must also guard the timing of our speech. Even a good word spoken out of time can cause damage. In this age when we can say to a large audience whatever we want whenever we want, it is imperative for us judge whether it is the right time for us as the speaker and whether it is the right time for others as the hearers.
- Give grace through your words. Really, this is the standard by which all our words should be measured. The word translated as “give” in this verse carries the connotation of bestowing a gift. Further, the word additionally carries with it the idea of giving of one’s self. We aren’t just to be receivers of God’s grace; we are to be communicators of God’s grace as well. The love that has been poured into our hearts is not just ours to be held. It is to be freely given to others.
- Consider your use of and interactions on social media. What has been your experience? Do you think the advent of social media has been good for or detrimental to society? Why? How is it used for good? How is it used for harm?
- Our words carry weight. What do you think this statement means? How good are you at considering the impact of your words before speaking?
- Walk through the 4 ways we can ensure our words are being used to build up others in love. Which of directives are part of your normal practice? With which of these directives do you struggle?