Sticks and Stones, Love
You have probably never met a Telerite, but they are a very unpleasant species. They are known for their surly disposition and their disagreeable demeanor. I was watching Star Trek and Captain Archer had to learn to be rude and obnoxious because that is the way the Telerites communicate and established respect. A lot of Americans are like that. In fact the term "ugly American" refers to Americans traveling abroad who were loud, proud, and obnoxious.
Late night television and commedy host shows are built on rude and crude humor and we eat it up. We like our trash talk and our put downs. We say hurtful words and excuse it with, "I am just kidding, don't be so sensitive." But words do matter.
Paul says that for unity to exist within the church we need to put away corrupting words. The Greek word for corrupt means putrid. They are words that tear down and rot in our mouths. They have no value and they turn rancid, offer nothing but decay. These kinds of words are used in the dark, behind closed doors, or in the company of like minded anarchists.
Corrupt words tear down, gossip, back bite, bully, demean, criticize, judge, and slander. They are meant to hurt and drive walls between people.
I was in a church meeting where the air was full of vitriol. There was anger over the resignation of the Pastor and shouting from both sides was accusative and belittling. Words were thrown out that were hurtful and in the end it fractured the church.
But there is a different way to speak to one another, a way that builds up both the individual and the church. Paul, again, says they should edify, fit the occasion, and display grace. If we were to use these as a framework for our speech we would have a more stable and productive church.
Words that edify encourage people to grow closer in their relationship with Jesus and others. They may be difficult words when truth is spoken, but they are said with love and are designed to bring people together.
Words spoken to fit the ocassion are selfless words. They are spoken after listening and are aimed to help people. Too often conversations are only opportunities for me to talk about myself. I am only waiting for you to stop talking so I can interject. You know this has happened when you walk away from a conversation and haven't a clue as to what the other person said.
Words spoken that display grace make others feel unjudged. They know that they are loved, and that forgiveness is always available. Words spoken with grace are sweet to the ears and redemptive in purpose.
Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can cut deeper, all they way to the soul. We teach our children to speak with respect because we want to raise a generation of polite and civil people. But more then that we want to display the love and grace that comes from a relationship with Jesus and can be lived out in loving unity within the church. Choose your words well before you speak today. I'm just saying....
Eph. 4:29 "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear."