These two words keep coming back to me.
I can’t get them out of my head.
I keep deleting and re-writing this post because I want it to absolutely ooze with love and grace. I want there to be not even a hint of bitterness, self-righteousness, frustration, judgment, or condemnation. I simply want to speak love.
The words first came to me after reading a blog and the comments that followed. As far as I can tell, the blogger intended to spark a healthy conversation among believers in order to more effectively minister to the younger generation. He succeeded in igniting a full-on battle instead. I saw in those comments a lot of finger-pointing and blame-casting. I saw little love and grace. Sometimes it’s hard to speak love.
I wanted to respond in frustration at first. But then I began to see the wounds behind the words. Painful memories, past failures, and insecurities cause us to say and do things we normally might not. These people don’t need me to judge them for their careless words (the Holy Spirit is perfectly capable of convicting those who need it). They need me to speak love.
The hardest part for me came as I realized what non-believers would think as they read the comments. I kept thinking about John 13. Jesus had just finished washing the disciples’ feet – giving them an amazing example of how His followers are to serve one another. Then, just before they began making their way to the garden where He would be arrested before His crucifixion, He said this, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35) These were some of His final words to His disciples and He focuses on loving one another. Would an outsider reading those comments see love? Would they know that we are followers of Christ? Would they want to be a part of our family? Or would they just see a bunch of bickering religious people? It is imperative for our witness that we speak love.
I believe social media often makes it easier for us to speak critically of others. We say things online we would probably never say to someone standing in front of us. A great deal of communication gets lost in text-only conversations that can cause us to misinterpret what is being said. Maybe we think our comment is funny. Sometimes I think we just forget the person on the other side of the computer (or tablet or cell phone or other gadget) is also human with emotions and feelings. They become just a name on a screen. The same is true for famous people and politicians. I wonder why we so freely speak ill of people we have most likely never even met. Some argue that, because these individuals have placed themselves in the limelight, they deserve whatever they get. I don’t see that in Scripture. I see, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths (or from your fingertips), but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29) I also see “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor… Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them… If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:10,14,18,21) Then I read this, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4:6) Or what about, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)? These are just a few of MANY passages that address how we respond to others. The Bible teaches us to speak love.
I do not mean to insinuate that we should turn a blind eye to sin and never hold one another accountable. There will most likely be times in our lives when we will need to confront a brother or sister, but we need to shower them with the same grace Christ lavishes upon us. We need to pray before, during, and after the conversation. We need to speak love.
I considered posting a blog a couple times over the past few weeks. I thought about writing a blog on how much I love the fall season (football and awesome weather anyone?) or how moms are superheroes (they definitely are). There would be nothing wrong with writing on either of those topics, but they did not grab a hold of my heart like this one did. I simply could not shake the feeling that I needed to share with others what I’m learning. I am trying to learn to keep silent unless my words will encourage or help “stir… another to love and good works.” (Hebrews 10:24) I still need to grow A LOT in this area personally, but maybe… just maybe… as each of us makes a conscious effort to choose our words wisely, we can help one another to speak love.