The current political climate in our country makes it easy to descend into the depths with our rhetoric. In fact, it is hard not to spew venom and call political opposites despicable names. But how should a Christian engage with a culture that has lost all civility and collegiality? What would Jesus say?
I have strong core values and beliefs that are rooted in the Word of God and my relationship with Jesus Christ. We live in a country that affords us extraordinary liberties. I believe that you should exercise your right to vote and engage in the political process. Otherwise, you have no right to complain. But what about our language? What does the Bible say about the way we speak to each other?
First of all, they called Jesus some awful names: liar, lunatic, demon-possessed, traitor, heretic, a devil, and a blasphemer. They followed it up by crucifying Him on a cross. No matter what names He was called, He always spoke the truth in love, commanded us to love our neighbors, and even shocked the world by saying that we should love our enemies. That would be a good starting point for Christians engaging our culture. What else can we learn from scripture about our tongue?
James 1:26 states, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.”The concept of a worthless religion means that it is not genuine. It is deceptive and hypocritical, and thus in vain. The point is that we can damage the effect of the gospel with the things we say. Our words can easily contradict our beliefs.
According to Solomon, reckless talk creates chaos. “Irresponsible talk makes a real mess of things…” (Proverbs 13:17)This is true in political discourse, in marriage, with your children, with your friends, and at work. If I am irresponsible with the things I say and the way I say them, then I am throwing a potential grenade in the middle of all my environments.
What’s more, God says that he despises gossip, sowing discord, and creating divisions among the people we are supposed to love and serve.
Proverbs 6:16-19 “There are six things that the Lordhates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”
Psalm 101:5 “Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy…”
What Kind of Talk Should Christians Avoid?
· Hurtful words – So often we speak words that are meant to cut and hurt. Sometimes this comes from a bitter spirit and other times it comes from our own hurts and hang-ups from our past. Sarcasm can be skillfully used for good sometimes between people. Most of the time, however, it is simply meant to hurt. The Bible tells us that our words should build each other up.
· Words spoken in anger – Many times we hurt the people closest to us by bursting out in anger. Guard your heart and your words so that you do not lose control and damage those you love with angry words. Something that is spoken in anger can be forgiven, but it takes a long time for that wound to heal. Avoid posting angry, hurtful, demeaning words on social media. Think about the effect it will have on the gospel before you speak or write it. Defend your beliefs without rancor.
· Lying – Lying is the most irresponsible of all the words we speak. The Bible says to speak the truth in love. You can speak the truth without personal attacks.
· Unguarded words – These are words that are sexually inappropriate. I believe that Christians should set the example in the workplace and the public domain. Sexual harassment would never take place at any time or anywhere if we simply followed what the Bible says about our behavior and speech. Guard your words and guard your heart so you can avoid any impropriety.
· Unforgiving words – We must always remember that no matter what has been done to us, it is nothing compared to what we have done to God. Do not speak unforgiving words but make it a habit to speak some of the sweetest words ever spoken – “I forgive you” or “I am sorry, please forgive me.” When we are forgiving and kind, it disarms people who want to argue.
Proverbs 31 speaks of a woman whose “price is far above rubies.” One of the values it extolls about her is that she has “the law of kindness” in her speech. God’s Word commands us to be kind to each other. It does not say that we are to be kind only to the people we like or those who are kind in return. By applying what God says about our language to our political discussions, we will be more like Jesus and shine brighter in the darkness.