Formula E429 could change your life!

One of the best ways to improve our communication is to replace destructive tones with constructive ways of speaking to each other.

Words of appreciation and encouragement are excellent alternatives to ugly tones of grumbling, whining; impatience, frustration and defensiveness.

Think of how many times we could defuse a situation by choosing better words and tones. Parents especially need to ask if their words and tones set the right example for their children. 

Use Formula E429 to remind yourself of God’s will for our speech. The formula is based on Ephesians 4:29 – “Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” (Ephesians 4:29, NLT).

Then apply a large dose of the first two characteristics of love: “Love is patient, Love is kind…” (I Corinthians 13:4).

This could literally change your life and the lives of those close to you!

WARNING LABEL

This advice comes with a warning about how easily we excuse our attitudes, words and tones by pointing to the difficult people around us. Remember the basic truth that the only person you can change is yourself. But by working on self-correction and experiencing personal change, we can powerfully influence others. So if you feel stuck in a bad place, find ways that you can change your attitudes, words and tones. But start with the words and tones you use because this discipline will make you face and confront your attitudes and emotions.

Recognize how all of this change fits under the work God is doing in your life based on these truths:

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all … are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (II Corinthians 3:17-18, NIV).

“Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:12-13).

I have work to do. Will you join me?

Steve Cornell 

See also: Spiritual Depression

Are you a social cannibal?

      Beware of social cannibals

Some people enjoy bad news about others. They savor bits of gossip and slander. You might want to keep your distance from them. They give you the feeling that they might like to hear a little bad news about you. Let’s call these people social cannibals.

The analogy works because they’re the kind of people who feed on weaknesses in others to feel good about themselves. Like hungry cannibals savoring the flesh of another person, social cannibals take pleasure in the problems, difficulties and failures of others. It’s dangerous to be in their company because you might end up in their pot.

Have you ever been transparent about a personal misfortune only to feel that someone found a bit of pleasure in your circumstances? Sometimes it’s expressed in a little laughter and you’re not sure if indicates a strange enjoyment in what you shared. Be careful, you might be facing a social cannibal.

Have you ever caught yourself enjoying a bit of bad news about another person? Maybe you publicly feigned concern over the “unfortunate” news, while quietly finding pleasure in it. 

We must be humble enough to admit that this kind of response reveals, “human antagonism in one of its basest and most unheroic forms” (Cornelius Plantinga Jr.). It is also a sin of the heart that is detestable to God (Pr. 6:16-19).

Why are we drawn to bad news about others? Could it be a diversionary tactic to make us feel better about ourselves? We must guard against this deeply sinful and destructive tendency. 

Social cannibalism is a predatory form of behavior that can be found in every culture and class of people. It tends to be more prevalent among refined and ostensibly religious people. The Germans call the behavior schadenfreude. The word refers to a twisted kind of pleasure in the misfortune of others. Social cannibals threaten good relationships and destroy wholesome community. Are you a social cannibal?

  •  “A talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter” (Pr. 11:13).
  •  “Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down. As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome person for kindling strife” (Pr. 26:20-22).
  • “But let none of you suffer as …. a busybody in other people’s matters” (1 Pet. 4:15).

See: Social Cannibals

Steve Cornell

5 links to see (and a fun video)

How (and why) to be the meanest mom in the world

When your kids tell you you’re mean, take it as a compliment. The rising generation has been called the laziest, rudest, most entitled kids in history. The news stories scare the best of moms. It’s easy to want to throw in the towel with your own kids. After all, don’t we all want to be the cool mom? Don’t give up. They may think you’re mean now, but they’ll thank you later.

The Irony of Despair (David Brooks, NYT)

“According to the World Health Organization, global suicide rates have increased by 60 percent over the past 45 years. The increase in this country is nothing like that, but between 1999 and 2010, the suicide rate among Americans between 35 and 64 rose by 28 percent. More people die by suicide than by auto accidents.”

“Suicide is delayed homicide.” Suicides happen in clusters, with one person’s suicide influencing the other’s. If a parent commits suicide, his or her children are three times as likely to do so at some point in their lives. In the month after Marilyn Monroe’s overdose, there was a 12 percent increase in suicides across America. People in the act of committing suicide may feel isolated, but, in fact, they are deeply connected to those around. As Hecht put it, if you want your niece to make it through her dark nights, you have to make it through yours.

Diagnosis: Human (Ted Gup, NYT)

Challenge and hardship have become pathologized and monetized. Instead of enhancing our coping skills, we undermine them and seek shortcuts where there are none, eroding the resilience upon which each of us, at some point in our lives, must rely. Diagnosing grief as a part of depression runs the very real risk of delegitimizing that which is most human — the bonds of our love and attachment to one another. The new entry in the D.S.M. cannot tame grief by giving it a name or a subsection, nor render it less frightening or more manageable.

The 5 Gossips You Will Meet (Tim Challies)

Gossip is a serious problem. It is a problem in the home, in the workplace, in the local church and in broader evangelicalism. It is a problem in the blogosphere, in social media, and beyond. In his book Resisting Gossip, Matthew Mitchell defines gossip as “bearing bad news behind someone’s back out of a bad heart” and shows…”

The Hole in the Gospel (D. A. Carson)

What is the gospel? In recent years that question has been answered in numerous books, essays, and blogs. Like the word “sin,” the word “gospel” can be accurately but rather fuzzily defined in a few words, or it can be unpacked at many levels…

The Gospel vs. Religion

The word gospel means good news. It is the opposite of the message of religion that tells you to get your act together if you hope to be accepted by God.

Religion buries us under the weight of the impossible. The gospel lifts us to a place we could never reach in our own strength.

Consider the truth of this gospel:

“… no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are. But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, … We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ.”  And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are” (Romans 3:20-22, NLT).

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. …For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them….For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (II Corinthians 5:17-21, NLT).

“He (Jesus) came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God” (John 1:10-13, NLT).

Are you discouraged by disunity?

A church leader commented that they had not had conflict in their Church for years. Another responded, “Sure. No movement; no friction.”

We don’t want our churches to be like the married couple who said that they haven’t fought for years and then admitted that they also haven’t talked to each other for years. 

While Christians are supposed to be distinguished by their love for one another (John 13:34-35), please don’t conclude that  this means they won’t have conflicts.

God’s Spirit within us longs for unity among us, but experiencing such unity will not happen without effort. This is what stands behind the call to “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).

Some Christians become too easily discouraged by disunity because they hold unrealistic (or even utopian) notions of trouble-free fellowship among those who walk with God.

If you are praying for conflict-free fellowship, God might take you to the only place where this is possible – heaven. Conflict is unavoidable on earth, especially where sinners are joining together to advance God’s kingdom. 

There’s a reason why Jesus prayed for the unity of His disciples before leaving this world (see: John 17:20-23). Jesus placed our unity in the context of our witness to the world when He prayed, “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:21). 

There are many threats to Christian unity but the key to unity in a Church is not the absence of conflict but a shared commitment to pursue reconciliation when conflict occurs (Matthew 5:23-24; 18:15-18).

But we also must have the maturity to understand that sometimes division is necessary. On one occasion, the Apostle Paul actually said, 

“….when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized (I Corinthians 11:18-19).

Most Christians would be surprised to observe how much of our New Testament is written to address issues of conflict, both potential and actual. 

A close look at the early church reveals points of division common to churches throughout history:

When you combine this list with the repeated emphasis on the need to maintain unity and purity in the church (e.g. Rom. 16:17; I Cor. 1:10; 5:7-13; Eph. 4:3; Phil. 2:3-5; 3:16; I Thess. 5:14-15; II Thess. 3:11-16; Ti. 3:10-11; I Pet. 3:8), it becomes even clearer that churches should expect many threats to unity.

Let us call our churches to recommit to the priority of pursuing reconciliation when conflict occurs by following the two primary New Testament directives for resolving conflicts — Covering in love and Confronting in love  (seeTwo Principles For Resolving Conflicts)

“Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other” (Romans 12:10, NLT).  

Other resources for unity in the Church:

Steve Cornell

Love’s Musical Crescendo!

I don’t have any musical abilities and I certainly don’t know how to read music. My secretary, however, knows music and plays the piano.

In my last few sermons, she heard me use a word that comes primarily from the world of music. I referred to the close of the description of love in I Corinthians 13:7 as a staccato. She very graciously suggested that “crescendo” might be a better way to describe it.

She wrote, “In music, staccato is a very short choppy sound made by striking a note very quickly. Crescendo means to build in volume and intensity within a certain section of music.”

Her point is very helpful because I would not have thought about the way musicians hear my use of the term. So I decided to revisit the structure of the language in verse seven and, after looking at it, I believe it’s possible to apply both words. It would also make my point more effective in the future if I explained it in the context of music. 

Webster’s definition of staccato includes, “cut short crisply; and could refer to a “staccato applause”; “a staccato command”: “Staccato notes.” The nature to the original language clearly fits this description. But the text also conveys a build up of intensity that fits with a crescendo. 

Now, as I look more closely at this, please don’t allow a little Greek to cause you to miss these great truths about love. This is a subject on which we need far more teaching! We desperately need a restoration of true love in our homes, neighborhoods, churches and nation. 

Love is a powerful and enduring virtue. In summarizing the powerful nature of love, I Corinthians 13:7-8a offers a kind of crisp and pointed grand finale.  In a great way, we learn that love, “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (NIV). 

Grammatical structure: One repeated object (all things) with four different verbs…. bears, believes, hopes, endures. 

Verse 7

  • πάντα στέγει, – all things bears
  • πάντα πιστεύει,- all things believes
  • πάντα ἐλπίζει, – all things hopes
  • πάντα ὑπομένει. – all things endures

Verse 8a

  • Ἡ ἀγάπη οὐδέποτε πίπτει – love never fails

vv. 7-8a – πάντα στέγει, πάντα πιστεύει, πάντα ἐλπίζει, πάντα ὑπομένει. Ἡ ἀγάπη οὐδέποτε πίπτει 

In his excellent commentary on I Corinthians, Gordon Fee wrote: “Paul does not mean that love always believes the best about everything and everyone, but that love never ceases to have faith; it never loses hope. This is why it can endure. The life that is so touched by the never-ceasing love of God in Christ (cf. Romans 3:39) is in turn enabled by the Spirit to love others in the same way. It trusts God in behalf of the one loved, hopes to the end that God will show mercy in that person’s behalf” (NICNT, p. 640).

  • “It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (NIV).
  • “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance…. love will last forever!” (NLT).
  • “There is nothing love cannot face” (NEB).

“Love has a tenacity in the present, buoyed by it’s absolute confidence in the future, that enables it to live in every kind of circumstance and continually to pour itself out in behalf of others” (Fee).

Love is tenacious and faithful. Love is brave and noble; it never fails. Love is “the most excellent way” (I Corinthians 12:31). “These three remain:Faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (I Corinthians 13:13). “Over all virtues, put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity”(Colossians 3:14).

The description of love before verse 7 closed with, “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” Consider Dr. Fee’s comment on this concerning the one distinguished by this kind of love: 

“Such a person refuses to take delight in evil, either in it’s more global forms — war, the suppression of the poor — or on those close to home — the fall of a brother or a sister, a child’s misdeed. Love absolutely rejects the most pernicious form of rejoicing over evil, gossiping about the misdeeds of others; it is not gladdened when someone else falls. Love stands on the side of the gospel and looks for mercy and justice for all, including those with whom one disagrees” (NICNT, p. 639). 

“Do everything in love” (I Corinthains 16:14).

Steve Cornell

(See also:A Life Transformed by Love“)

Are you a social cannibal?

Some people enjoy bad news about others. They savor morsels of gossip and slander. You might want to keep your distance from them. They’re the kind of people who give you a feeling that they’d like to hear a little bad news about you. Let’s call these people social cannibals

Cannibals?! Yes. The analogy works because they’re the kind of people who feed on weaknesses in others to feel good about themselves. Like hungry cannibals savoring the flesh of another person, social cannibals take pleasure in the problems, difficulties and failures of others. It’s dangerous to be in their company because you might end up in their pot.

The scary part is that this tendency starts early in life as siblings tattle on each other and find pleasure in seeing a brother or sister get in trouble. But don’t think that the behavior is left behind with childhood. Many adults are just as guilty — albeit in more refined and disguised ways.

Social cannibalism is a predatory form of behavior that can be found in every culture and class of people. It’s often more prevalent among refined and ostensibly religious people. The Germans call the behavior schadenfreude. The word refers to a twisted and sadistic pleasure in the misfortune of others. It threatens good relationships and destroys community. 

Schadenfreude: (shäd’n-froi’də) a compound German word (lit. “damage-joy). It refers to malicious joy in the misfortunes of others. From “schaden”– damage, harm, injury + “freude”–joy.

When bad things happen to people (or they suffer the consequences of the bad things they do), there’s no shortage of those willing to gloat over them. If your life is public and you enjoy some measure of success, expect people to want to see bad things happen to you. Sometimes they’ll spread slanderous rumors to feed their desire to see you fall.

If we’re honest, we’ll admit that we all have to battle this tendency to one extent or another. But why? Why would we find satisfaction in the misfortune of others? Does it make us feel better about ourselves? Are we really that insecure? Or, Is our goal to redirect the light from our own sins on to others?

Here is one of the deepest evidences of evil and it’s more universal than most admit. Some hide their schadenfreude behind hypocritical veneers of concern.

Openly gloating is bad, but it’s even more detestable to appear publically sympathetic while privately gloating. Some speak of the failures of others with sneering smugness; others act publically concerned while privately feeding a sense of moral superiority and malicious delight. Both responses come from deeply depraved hearts—no matter how much one feigns religious or spiritual concern.

Have you ever been transparent about a personal misfortune only to feel that someone found a bit of pleasure in your circumstances? Sometimes it comes out in a little chuckle of laughter and you’re not sure if indicates a strange enjoyment in what you shared. This is what the Germans call schadenfreude (i. e. enjoyment obtained from the trouble of others). 

Envy is a close cousin and another character trait found in social cannibals. People who find pleasure in the misfortune of others also tend to be displeased by the good fortune of others (envious). Here are two evils feeding off each other: schadenfreude and envy.

These behaviors reflect the depths of human antagonism and destroy true love.

“Wherever we find envy, we find the wreckage of human and Christian community. Envious people backbite. They deliver congratulations with a smile that, in another light, might be taken for a sneer.”

“The envier gossips. He saves up bad news about others and passes it around like an appetizer at happy hour. The envier grumbles. He murmurs. He complains that all the wrong people are getting ahead. Spite, bitterness, discord which undoes all friendships, accusation, malignity—all these things flow from envy and together turn friendship and good fellowship into a rancorous shambles” (Cornelius Plantinga Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be).

“Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice” (Proverbs 24:17). “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones” (Proverbs 14:30).

Love “…does not delight in evil” (I Corinthians 13:5-6). People who practice the evils of schadenfreude and envy are dangerous. They’re social cannibals.

Jesus taught his followers to, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28). This is not easy to obey but it helps to remember how God loved us when we were his enemies. “…God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. When we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son” (Romans 5:8,10).

When our hearts are filled with God’s love, we can fight off the cannibalistic behaviors of schadenfreude and envy.

Steve Cornell
Senior Pastor
Millersville Bible Church
Millersville, Pennsylvania, USA

 
 
 

The God Who Suffers With us and For us

Audio link: download

Before considering 17 examples of the suffering of Jesus Christ, reflect on these Scriptures:

“…it was necessary for him (Jesus) to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17-18, NLT). (see also: Hebrews 4:14-16).

“Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he kept entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree” (I Peter 2:21-24)

When we suffer….. “….let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)

1. He left his comforts behind to suffer for others - “though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor.” “Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began” (II Corinthians 8:9; John 17:5).
2. He entered Creation as a creature - “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Philippians 2:6-7).  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1;1-3,10,14).

3. He was born in humble circumstances – even without proper shelter.

4. He experienced weariness, hunger, sadness, anger, disappointment, loss 

5. He agonized in prayer over a great trial - “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:42,44).

6. His soul was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. (Matthew 26:38)

7. He was betrayed, denied and forsaken by his friends.

8. He was misrepresented, falsely accused, arrested  and subjected to an illegal judicial process.

9. He was declared innocent and yet punished for crimes he did not commit.

10.  - He was slapped, spit on, sneered at, struck with a stick and beaten with fists and tortured with the dreadful scourge - “Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him,  and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him” (Matthew 27:27-31).

11. He was mocked and ridiculed “Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.” (Matthew 27:39-44)

12. He was the object of mob hatred as they chanted for his death. “Crucify him!” “Crucify him!”

13. He was completely alone in his suffering, even crying out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

14. He was put to death with criminals – “he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death even death on a cross!”

15. He willingly sacrificed his life despite having the power to protect himself - “Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage” (Philippians 2:6ff.). “No man takes my life from me. I lay it down on my own initiative. I have authority to lay it down and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:18).

16. He died for people who rejected Him - “Christ died for the ungodly.” “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” “While we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son” (Romans 5:6,8). One might protest, “Don’t give up your life for them!” or say, “What a waste of a good life!” 

17. He received the death penalty of God’s wrath against sin - “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (II Corinthians 5:21). “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them” (John 3:36).

Centuries before his birth, the sacrificial suffering of Jesus was described:

- Isaiah 53:3-11-

  “He was despised and rejected —a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.” 

“All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all. He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. Unjustly condemned, he was led away. No one cared that he died without descendants, that his life was cut short in midstream. But he was struck down for the rebellion of my people. He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal …”

“But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him
and cause him grief. When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins” Isaiah 53:3-11).

Steve Cornell 

Take delight in honoring each other

I arrived at the office early this morning to do some radio recording for my daily feature: Focus on the Church. The verse of Scripture on my mind today is Romans 12:10: “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.”

The greek: τῇ φιλαδελφίᾳ εἰς ἀλλήλους φιλόστοργοι, τῇ τιμῇ ἀλλήλους προηγούμενοι
-
If we would wholeheartedly devote ourselves to live by these words: “take delight in honoring each other” (τιμῇ ἀλλήλους προηγούμενοι), our gospel would shine like light into the darkness.
-
The message of this world is the opposite: Seek honor for yourself. Let’s pursue counter-cultural Christlike living! Don’t gather with your Church family to seek to be honored but to honor others above yourselves (see: Philippians 2:2-11)

The translation above is from the New Living Bible (an actual translation, unlike the Living Bible). Other translations include: “give preference to one another” or “preferring one another.”

I like the NLT but found it curious that the words “take delight” were included. I believe this was included because the word it translates (προηγούμενοι) could be rendered “going before.”  The expression conveys an eagerness to honor others. Perhaps a call to initiate or even to surpass one another in showing honor. “Out do one another in showing honor” (ESV).

But I like the rendering “Take delight.” It should not be considered a burden but joy to show honor to one another. Honoring involves recognizing of value. Most of us could use a renewed passion for deferring to one another in honor. When we live out this calling, it transforms the nature of Christian fellowship into the kind of community it was meant to be.  

After demonstrating this kind of deferential honor by washing His disciples feet, Jesus said, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:34-35).

Steve Cornell




 

Words are windows into hearts

We can almost always be sure that people are talking in hurtful ways when things go wrong in a relationship.

This is one reason why it’s important to do a personal inventory about the way we use our words.

Another reason relates to local Churches. Teaching people the right ways to speak to one another (and about one another) is essential to preserving the unity of Christian fellowship. Believers are called to “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).  Some of the most destructive forces threatening this unity are related to speech (James 3).

The first practical problem faced by the early Church involved verbal complaints.

“But as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food” (Acts 6:1, NLT).

One of the earliest letters to New Testament believers has much to say about speech. Evidently there was a significant problem because in the first chapter we read,

“If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless” (James 1:26, NIV).

Think of the possible things that could have been said in the second part of the verse: “If you claim to be religious but… do not go to Church, do not read your Bible, do not pray, etc… These are important parts of living a godly life but I am not sure many would have expected to read: “If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue…”

Restraint and Reflection

A little before this, we read about the need to “be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19, NIV). Restraint and reflection are virtues when it comes to speech. And of course, those familiar with the book of James know the focus given to the tongue in chapter three. There we learn about the power and potential of the tongue. There we learn about the difficulty of taming the tongue. There we learn about the importance of reigning in that powerful little muscle. There we learn that the discipline of reigning in our speech (words and tones) could help us bring needed discipline in other areas of lives.

Out of the heart

Jesus takes matters to a deeper level in teaching that our words reveal our hearts.  “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:35). An example of this in the Old Testament comes from the life of Joseph and his brothers.

 “Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other children because Joseph had been born to him in his old age. So one day Jacob had a special gift made for Joseph—a beautiful robe. But his brothers hated Joseph because their father loved him more than the rest of them. They couldn’t say a kind word to him” (Gen. 37:3-4).

It’s not at all surprising that people with hearts full of hatred find it impossible to speak kind words. And this connection between heart and speech should encourage us to look for heart conditions behind the ways people speak. Our speech (way of talking) is a window into what’s happening in our hearts. Words are windows to the heart. So our way of talking could be a warning sign of the need for inner transformation.

We should also look closely at the ways of speaking passed on to us from our family backgrounds. If you grew up in a home with lots of yelling,  don’t be surprised if you default to the same way of speaking.

A helpful exercise

Discuss the possible heart issues behind each of the forbidden ways of speech listed below. Then look closely at the list of 12 tones of voice and discuss the possible heart conditions behind each one. Attach specific Scriptures to counter each tone of voice and the possible heart conditions behind them.

Forbidden speech

  1. Lying (Ephesians 4:25; I Peter 3:10; Psalm 34:13)

  2. Slander (Titus 3:2; James 4:11)

  3. Gossip: (Proverbs 6:16-19; 11:13; 16:28)
  4. 
Complaining: (Philippians 2:14; Jude 16)

  5. Vengeful words (I Peter 2:23; Romans 12:17-19)
  6. 
Malicious or hurtful words (Ephesians 4:31-32)

  7. Angry words (Ephesians 4:31-32)

  8. Hasty words (James 1:19; Ecclesiastes 3:7)
  9. 
Flattery (Proverbs 24:26-28; 29:5; Rom. 16:18)
  10. 
Cursing people (James 3:7-10)
  11. 
Boasting (I Corinthians 13:4-8)

Watch that tone

Tone of voice can make a big difference in communication. True words spoken with wrong tones are often self-defeating in their aim. Scripture says, “Speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).

Although I would never argue for a single-tone as a Christian way of speaking, some tones are clearly unacceptable. Some tones are destructive to good relationships and some even misrepresent and dishonor God.

  1. Condescending
  2. 
Bossy

  3. Angry
  4. 
Snobby
  5. 
Frustrated

  6. Impatient

  7. Defensive
  8. 
Moody

  9. Distant

  10. Disrespectful
  11. 
Dark

  12. Whining

Required speech

One of the best ways to change our speech patterns is to replace inappropriate ways of talking with godly speech. An obvious example would be to replace gossip or slander with  positive words about others. Words of thanks and kind words of encouragement are excellent alternatives to many of the wrongful ways of speaking (Ephesians 4:32; 5:18-21). Praising for God (Hebrews 13:15) is a potent form of speech that can set a clear tone for the rest of life. Those in authority who must confront, correct and punish others are also commanded to affirm those who do good (see: I Peter 2:13-14).

E429

Use the formula E429 to remind yourself and each other of God’s will for our speech. This stands for Ephesians 4:29 which says, “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.” “Let all that you do be done in love.” (I Corinthains 16:14).

Steve Cornell