“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing“ (Proverbs 12:18). The question is, are your words piercing those around you, or do they bring healing?
The following are some thoughts on this subject from a book written by Florence and Fred Littauer titled, “After Every Wedding Comes a Marriage” (which is sadly, no longer being published). In this book, which holds a lot of wisdom, Florence writes:
In our family we have all memorized Ephesians 4:29: “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.“ We call this our communication verse. As a family we reduced the verse down to three little words, “Is it edifying?”
Let’s see what this verse means: “Let no corrupt communication…“ —that means: any curt, cutting, caustic comment is corrupt. Any sarcasm, slander, or swearing is corrupt. The Bible tells us that we are to use no corrupt communication.
“Proceed out of your mouth“ means: when we are in control of our senses, we can stop damaging words before they get out. Some of us get our mouths in motion before we speak. Once the words are out, we can’t stuff them back in; they are intangible and elusive.
On Marita’s fourth birthday she received four talcum powder mitts. No child needed that much powder, so I put them away. The following Sunday we had company, and the children went to Marita’s room to play. After a while a little girl came out ghostly white from head to toe. The mothers all ran to see what had happened.
The children had found the four talcum mitts and they had powdered each other completely. Every particle of powder was out of the mitts and the room was a mist of white. No matter how we tried, we could never have gotten that powder back in the mitts, and for months when we walked on Marita’s carpet little puffs of powder appeared.
Many families have done the same with words. We’ve covered each other with angry barbs and sarcastic accusations. We’ve hit each other with demeaning phrases and we can’t get them back. No matter how we try to apologize, those words are out there floating loose. We can’t stuff them back in our mitts, and when we tread on certain subjects those words come up as dust.
[The Bible verse in Ephesians 4 goes on to say]
“…but that which is good to the use of edifying…“ —edifying means to build up. Does everything that comes out of your mouth build up those to whom it was directed? Or do many of your comments tear down the listener? Our words are to be good and to build up those around us.
Our daughter Lauren visited a Christian family for a few days, and when she came home she said, “There was something missing there.” As we discussed what it might be, she realized that while they were nice people they never encouraged one another. The parents constantly complained to each other and nagged the children. The communication was tearing down and not building up.
“I guess I didn’t appreciate how you two speak to us until I saw how sad their life is without compliments and encouraging words; they don’t even try to practice ‘Is it edifying’!”
[The Ephesians 4 Bible verse continues to say]
“… That it may minister grace to the hearers.“ To minister means to serve and grace means a favor, so we’re to serve up favors to those who hear us. When we give gifts to our friends we always buy the best we can afford. We want people to think of us as generous and thoughtful. Yet how often do we realize that each word we give is a gift? It’s presented to someone.
This verse in Ephesians 4:29, was life-changing to our family as we were raising our children. When any one of us would say something unkind, some sentence that didn’t do a favor we were each allowed to ask, “Is it edifying?” By checking each other, we learned to be kind and complimentary.
Does your home exemplify this teaching? Galatians 5:15 The Living Bible says, “If instead of showing love among yourselves you are always critical and catty, watch out! Beware of ruining each other.” How easy it is to ruin each other with critical words! How much easier it is to destroy a marriage than to build it up!
Some of you may have spent so many years building your walls of interruption, anger, false agreement, joking, ridicule, defensiveness, or silence to fence off your own area of Private Property that it would take King Arthur and his entire court to knock down your fortress. You’ve learned how to fend off invaders and you’ve successfully kept your mate at a distance.
You communicate on your terms on your topics at your time. You’ve established a pattern and you don’t know how to change. You understand the principles but you don’t think you have the power to put it into practice —and you’re right.
On our own we can’t change our pattern of behavior, but in Romans 12:1-2 we learn that when we present our bodies, including our minds and our mouths, to the Lord, He’ll transform us. He’ll give us the ability to communicate on a positive level. We need to plug ourselves into a dependable power.
We can try to break down the barriers to communication with our own hands, but we will fail. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned each one to his own way“ (Isaiah 53:6). When our own way leads us into trouble, when our marriage is falling apart, we need help. When a wall has come up between us and we’re talking through cracks, we need a carpenter to take it down. We need Jesus.
Paul tells us in Ephesians 2 that we have walked a worldly path —that our conversations have been in the flesh, that we’re by nature angry children and that without Christ we have no hope, but that God is rich in mercy and He loves us. Through Christ Jesus He has brought those of us who were far off unto Himself. For He is our peace, who has made both one and has broken down the middle wall of partition between us (Ephesians 2:14).
When Fred has taught the lesson on communicating he demonstrated the ability of Christ to break down our walls by drawing out a little triangle. [At the bottom of the triangle on each side] you see Fred and Florence far apart, with a wall between us [going up the center of the triangle]. We know it shouldn’t be there, but it sneaked up on us and we’re on opposite sides. At the very top of the [triangle] wall is Jesus Christ, who says, “Come unto me.”
As Fred looks up he begins to climb. His eyes are not on me and my nasty behavior but on the Lord. As he prays, he rises up until he reaches the top and is one with the Lord. If I refuse to budge and want to wallow in my miseries, Fred doesn’t have to worry. His peace is in the Lord, who has promised him, “If I am lifted up I will draw all men to me.”
As I sense that Fred is at peace, that he’s not going to fight with me but loves me unconditionally in spite of my bad behavior, I begin to soften and start scaling my side. The closer I get to Christ, the closer I get to Fred, until we’re all three at the top and the wall is gone.
As Fred has taught, “My peace doesn’t depend on my partner’s behavior but on my relationship with the Lord.” Where are you sitting today? Are you and your partner on opposite sides of a wall? Is there a middle wall of partition between you? Are you tired of talking through a hole in the wall? It takes one person to start the upward climb. Shouldn’t it be you?
The Bible says, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusts in thee“ (Isaiah 26:3). Know that when you look up to the Lord and trust Him to straighten out your problem with your partner, He will. You’re responsible for your own behavior, not your partner’s. Do what you know is right and let the Lord pull up your mate.
The Bible also says, “If I am lifted up … I will draw all men to me” (John 12:32). When you lift up the Lord and not yourself and your opinions, you take the pressure off your partner and allow the Lord to work. He will, in His own time and way, draw your partner to Himself. “He is our peace, who has made both one and has broken down the middle wall of partition between us“ (Ephesians 2:14).
We hope this message has been helpful. It would be good for us ALL to remember those three little, yet powerful words, before we speak. “Does it edify?”
Steve and Cindy Wright
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