Have you ever been haunted by a passage of scripture? Do you know what I mean? It pops into your mind randomly in sermons, conversations, thoughts, prayer and life in general. Try as you might, you can’t escape from it. Over the last few months, I have been haunted by Ephesians 4, in particular verses 29-32:
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. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Now, let me be completely honest. I didn’t think I was too bad where unwholesome talk was concerned. It turns out, I am. I love how the Holy Spirit humbles us and shapes us through scripture. It was pointed out to me by a wise lady that unwholesome or un-whole-some talk is anything which is not whole, which breaks something apart – usually a relationship either with someone else or with God. This has particularly resonated with me when we did a sermon series on relationships. It is crucial in building and keeping positive healthy relationships that we speak well of each other and let no un-whole-some talk come out of our mouths.
There’s a little three letter word in verse 29 which is a challenge to me. Any. Do not let ANY unwholesome talk come out of your mouths. The same wise lady who pointed out the un-whole-some talk to me also has a phrase, “God is a God of no loopholes!”. That means we can’t say, “But you don’t know what she did it me!”, or “I just have to tell someone this to let my frustration out!”, or “Just so you know what’s she’s like…” . When the Bible says ‘Do not let ANY unwholesome talk come out of your mouths’, it really means any, zero, none. We can be guilty of this with each other but also of other churches and denominations. Verse 3-6 say Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. I liked Chuck’s analogy at the Big Gathering a while ago when he likened different denominations to different regiments of the same army. We perhaps have different mission fields but our goal is the same. Let us speak well of other brothers and sisters in Christ regardless of how or where they choose to worship.
Verse 31 says, Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Again, we have another three letter word which we can’t ignore. All. No loopholes. How often are our relationships with others broken apart, made unwhole, because of bitterness, rage, anger, slander and malice (I’m not sure we brawl very often as women!)? Even allowing a little bit of bitterness breaks apart a relationship and allows satan a foothold.
So now we know that we are to get rid of unwholesome talk, bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander and malice. How then are we to speak? Verses 29, ‘but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.’ Just think of the impact we could have in our relationships if we actively chose to build one another up according to their needs. If we asked God to reveal to us what our friends’ needs are, if we don’t already know. If we were to encourage our friends with scripture, and pray for them to be built up in their faith.
Verse 32 speaks for itself, ’Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.’ Let these not be trite familiar words, but words which spur us into action so that Jesus words in John 13 ring out,35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Now my challenge to you is this: at some point today, grab a cup of tea or whatever you fancy, find a quiet spot and read Ephesians 4 a few times. My prayer is that you will allow this scripture to haunt you this month. That it will soak into your heart and guide your conversations and attitudes towards others. I am certainly a work in progress in this area, but am so thankful that my Father God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love and wants to continue moulding me into the person He created me to be. My challenge is allowing Him to mould. Will you allow Him to mould you?
I am married to Fin and we have three daughters, Ella, Daisy and Phoebe. We live in the country and love having our home filled with people. At the moment I am passionate about tea, music, running and doing the laundry! We can be found in Inverurie on a Sunday.