Sunday, April 17, 2005

Talking to Each Other in a Casual Culture

American conversation is inherently casual. In the past several decades, many formalities that used to exist have been dropped and now are viewed as quaint. Example: a child is widely expected to call adults by their first name ("Sally, say hello to my friend Deb," whereas once Sally would have been instructed to call Deb "Mrs. Smith"). Similarly, students often call their professors by first names.

I am not necessarily knocking all of these changes--it's more of an observation of the culture of which I am an offspring. I gravitate to casual settings and enjoy casual banter. I want a cafe atmosphere as much as the next Gen-Xer (or Gen-Yer or Buster or whatever I am supposed to be). I am not advocating a return to the attention to the minutiae of social intercourse that the Victorians had.

But with the tearing down of "quaint" formalities and societal expectations, I think that somewhere a need surfaces for us to be careful in our speech toward one another. I've been thinking lately--and the Spirit has brought many Scriptures to my mind--about how brothers and sisters speak to one another.

One of the first Scriptures that leapt to my mind is from 1 Peter. I think of it often and am convicted every time.

1 Peter 4:7-11
The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.

I tend to hone in on v. 11--"as one speaking the very words of God." I confess to you right now that every word that comes from my mouth does not honor that Scripture! Help, Lord!

We sing a song at church--in fact, we sang it today--that contains the lyric, "You are God in heaven/And here am I on earth/So I'll let my words be few..." Conviction arrests my heart whenever I sing it, but I sing it with a concomitant prayer that I will become more like what I am singing about.


Eph 4:29
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

So I should only be speaking what is good for others' edification, and words that the Lord Himself would have no problem with.


We are also warned by Jesus not to malign our brothers. I know there are varying interpretations of the passage below, but I think we can all agree that at the very least we'd better use caution about calling our brother a 'fool' or any other epithet, at the very least. And as always, with the Lord there's a heart condition at the root of the tree; the epithet we hurl at our brother is the bitter fruit of the anger we harbor against him.

Matt 5:21-22
You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

I hope you're sitting down. Here's another one:

Titus 3:1-2
Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.

Am I the only one writhing under the conviction? OUCH!! But praise the Lord, because His Word is for our instruction, and He will complete the work He has begun in us as we abide in and obey Him. He will work in us to will and to act according to His good purposes.

How can we build up our brethren?

Eph 5:19
Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.

Titus 2:1
But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine.

James 2:11-13
For he who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Psalm 49:3
My mouth shall speak wisdom;
the meditation of my heart shall be understanding.

May the Lord set a guard at our mouths and help us to speak in order to edify.

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