“Words of suspicion and distrust, like the thistledown carried by the wind, are scattered far and wide, and can never be recalled. Un-Christlike speech lies at the foundation of nine tenths of all the difficulties that exist in the church. Satan’s agents are industriously trying to get professed Christians to speak unadvisedly. When they succeed, Satan exults, because God’s followers have hurt their influence. We have no time, in these solemn moments, to contend with one another. Those who give way to evil thinking and evilspeaking do not realize how much time they cause others to lose. God’s servants have been called upon to settle difficulties between brother and brother, and time has been spent in this way that belonged to souls ready to perish–time that ought to have been devoted to the fulfilling of the gospel commission.”–The Review and Herald, November 24, 1904. (The bold sections are applied by me.)
What a powerful quote written by Ellen White 117 years ago. She shared that the majority of problems in the church are caused by un-Christlike speech. She went so far as to say 9 out of every 10 issues were the result of the way people spoke with one another in church.
Do you think this problem still exists?
Would you agree with her percentage?
I will say that from my pastoral experience most of the challenges I have faced, observed and caused myself have been the result of un-Christlike speech.
This idea is consistent with Scripture. There are numerous verses that describe the dangers of our tongues and give instructions for us to restrain our lips.
Proverbs 10:19* says;
“When there are many words, wrongdoing is unavoidable,
But one who restrains his lips is wise.”
Maybe a solution to some modern challenges in the church is to talk less?
This is consistent with what Peter says in 1 Peter 3:10;
“For, the one who desires life, to love and see good days, must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit.”
Peter goes so far to say that refraining from saying everything that comes to mind is one of the ways to experience the blessings of life. He calls those blessings the “good days.” Oh how often we long for the god days.
What might that look like in our church today?
What would it be like to be in a church where everyone modeled a heightened awareness of the dangers of negative speech and consciously restrained their tongues?
What would it feel like to be in a place where people used their words to build up others?
It is possible! We know this because that was the experience of Peter himself. The author of the above mentioned verse learned how to do this. He learned that the good days were found more in restraint of his mouth than in blurting out the first thing to come to his mind. Over his time with Jesus, he learned to guard his tongue. We see Peter go from speaking the first thing that come to his mind, to tempering his tongue, to using his words to bring life and healing to others. (Acts 3:6)
The amazing thing is that if we learn how to restrain our words, we can actually use them for amazing things. We can be the church, the body of Christ, that He would have us to be. With our words, we can build others up (Ephesians 4:29.) We can use them to bring restoration (Proverbs 12:18.) They can bring life to others. (Proverbs 15:4.) They can be used to praise God (Psalm 119:171)
Today, may you be the 1/10 that chooses to use your words in a Christ-like way. May you put into practice the counsel of Paul as recorded in Colossians 4:6;
"Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”
May your speech always always resemble God's grace.
*All Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible