Do we really have the right to speak negatively to or about someone? Unless permission is given, the answer is No.
23 Those who guard their mouths and tongues keep themselves from calamity.
People nowadays get pretty caught up in politics and other topics. I’ve read some pretty harsh comments and heard some very negative statements from fellow Christians. I know it’s hard to keep a steady temper when the world seems out of control and things aren’t going like we might have planned. Lest we forget Whose we are and our purpose here on earth, let’s look at a passage that will give us a great example of how we are to treat and respond to those who don’t know Christ.
Paul is in Athens awaiting the arrival of Silas and Timothy, who stayed behind in Berea to further instruct the Jewish believers there. In the meantime, Paul debated in the synagogue and in the marketplace. One of the philosophers invited him to come and speak to the Areopagus, which was a really big deal. It was a meeting place for all the philosophers and the wealthy where they talked about new ideas. They asked Paul to explain his “new god.” Let’s pick it up in Acts 17:22,
Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”
There are three things I would like to point out:
- Paul explained who His God was. He didn’t start by telling them that they were sinners. He set his foundation on truth.
- Although Paul did tell them that they were ignorant for worshiping gold, silver and stone images, he explained why. What he didn’t say was that their gods were fake or evil or capricious or anything. He didn’t address them at all.
- Paul got to the heart of the matter by talking about Jesus rising from the dead. Any conversation from that point would be about Jesus, what He did, and what He commands of those who would follow Him.
When we are answering someone or making comment about what someone has said, let’s consider these cautions:
- Is what I am about to say godly? In other words, am I trying to defend God (He doesn’t need defending)? Am I venting my anger and frustration? Am I considering that the person may or may not know the Lord?
- Is what I am about to say good? In other words, are my words vindictive, accusatory or otherwise negative? Am I trying to “put them in their place?”
- Is what I am about to say true? In other words, am I presenting Jesus, what He did, and what He commands of those who would follow Him? Might this person want to follow Jesus after talking to me or reading my post?
- Is what I am about to say beneficial? In other words, does it need to be said? Will it do any good (is this the right audience)? Will the person want to talk more with me about Jesus? Will it lead to others wanting to know more about Jesus? Does it lift others up?
Paul was pretty specific in Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” I’m not saying that we should tiptoe around people who spout off about their sin, but I do think that we need to be Spirit-led in our conversation with them. Proverbs 26 has two verses that seem to contradict each other. I think of them in this light:
4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be just like him. This fool is a mocker and is not interested in hearing someone else’s opinion. He will argue (however illogically), make fun, and even get angry and violent.
5 Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes. This fool is a simpleton and simply doesn’t know any better. When approached with the truth, he is interested in hearing and learning.
We need to determine which kind of fool a person is before “rushing in where angels fear to trod.” Let’s be discerners of the Spirit about every conversation we have whether in person or online.
Abba, we want to be good ambassadors for You. Help us to be “wise as wolves and as innocent as doves.” You will help us be prudent in what we say as we discern what type of person to whom we are talking. May our audience always see Christ in us and be attracted to Him because of our words and actions. Thank You, Abba, for giving us such a great privilege. Amen.