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We must take control of our words

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By Michael Duncan

I confess to being a Facebook fan.  While I don’t spend a lot time on Facebook, I do find it an interesting place to visit.  Recently, a friend posted the following: “If you didn’t hear it with your own ears or see it with your own eyes, don’t invent it with your small mind and share it with your big mouth.”

It’s good advice... but it doesn’t go far enough.  The Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians about the importance of getting along and being of the same mind.  In the fourth chapter he addressed two women, Euodia and Syntyche, who were obviously not getting along with each other.

He wanted them “to be of the same mind in the Lord.”

Why would Paul be so frank as to cause their names to be called out loud in public?  The relationship of any two people in the church affects the whole.  This was not a private matter between Euodia and Syntyche, whatever they may have thought.  This was a church-dare I say, a Christ, matter.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Euodia and Syntche.  One of the things I’ve thought is that the names called out in public could just have easily been Edgar and Sam.  Being at odds and saying things to and/or about another is not limited to women.  Being at odds with a fellow believer and saying things to each other we ought not to say, and saying things about each other and repeating half-truths or even truths that need not be repeated, is common to both genders.

Words are powerful.  I would like to believe that we sometimes forget this, thinking that otherwise we would not say some of the hurtful things we say to each other and we would not spread gossip.  Of course, it may be that we know the power of our words, and we use them hurtfully on purpose.

We can’t always control what we hear.  Words accidentally overheard can hurt us.  When such words are spoken, we need to practice patience: count to 10... take a breather... put ourselves in “time-out” until we can respond calmly and rationally.  Often what we hear another say is not what the other meant.  Taking time to hear the concerns, needs and emotions behind the words is necessary for good communication. 

We can’t always control what we hear, but we can control what we do with what we hear.  Things we hear that are untruths, particularly about others, should be gently, but strongly, countered. 

When someone begins their conversation with us by saying, “I don’t know if it’s true or not, but...,” we should stop them before they finish.  If stop them we can’t, we need to lock their message away and never, never repeat it. 

When others speak to us or we overhear them speaking out their anger and hurt, we should treat that as confidential information—information that is never ours to repeat to anyone. 

Chances are people who speak such words will soon regret it. While they can’t take the words back from those who heard them, how much better their lives and the lives of others would be if we who heard them never repeated them.  There is only one proper response to people who speak out of their hurt and anger, and that response should always be one of reaching out to comfort them and to walk alongside them.

We can’t always control what we hear, but we can control what we do with what we hear.  For each other’s sake and for the sake of the gospel, we must take control of our words.

When Paul urged the women to be of the same mind, he was saying more than to get along.  When he wrote “be of the same mind in the Lord,” he was reminding them and the church that they were to “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.”

Being of the same mind as Christ means doing more than suggested by the message I found on Facebook.  Even when we hear it with our own ears and see it with our own eyes, there are some things that should not be repeated. While we should practice truth-telling, even more we should practice charity. There are things we hear and see that are true that if shared with others only serves to make things worse for those about whom they are true.

How much hurt and pain would be avoided were we to follow Paul’s admonition?

Michael Duncan is pastor of Eminence Baptist Church. Column also submitted to faithlab.com.