Words Of Life Or Death

But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken” (Matthew 12:36 NIV)

todd shupe

You can turn on the tv news any day at any time to see that things are not peaceful.  People have strong opinions on political, social environmental, and other issues.  A variety of opinions and perspectives can help form a good decision.  However, we all tend to wear blinders and have a very limited field of view on certain issues.  This hinders our perspective and therefore our ability to see issues from all sides.

To see all sides, I belong to many Christian-based groups on Facebook.  Current issues (social and political) are often a frequent topic of conversation.  As Christians we have a calling to be advocates for social justice – to hear the call of the needy.  We are also called to encourage and build up each other (Ephesians 4:29, 1 Thessalonians 5:11, Romans 14:19).

In recent years I have noticed a progressively divisive tone of discourse in these Facebook groups.  I have seen name calling, slander, bullying, and vulgar language to advance their agenda or argument.  This is appalling and is evidence that the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) is absent.  This is particularly troubling when these comments are coming from clergy, elders, deacons, and other church leaders who are held to a higher standard (James 3:1).  Yes, our words matter because, “The tongue has the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21).  Our words need to be consistently, not periodically, uplifting to the Body of the Christ.  James 3:11 addresses this issue by asking, “Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?”  Matthew 12:34 tells us that negative words are evidence of an unhealthy heart. “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” In the book Battlefield of the Mind, Joyce Meyer writes, “Judgment and criticism are fruit of a deeper problem – pride.”

It seems that people get more easily agitated and are more likely to make offensive comments on social media rather than in person.  The website Inc. posted an interesting article You Should Never, Ever Argue With Anyone On Facebook, According to Science.   According to the article there is a simple reason why this happens.  “We respond very differently to what people write than to what they say–even if those things are exactly the same. That’s the result of a fascinating new experiment by UC Berkeley and University of Chicago researchers. In the study, 300 subjects read, watched video of, or listened to arguments about such hot-button topics as war, abortion, and country or rap music. Afterward, subjects were interviewed about their reactions to the opinions with which they disagreed.” 

“Their general response was probably very familiar to anyone who’s ever discussed politics: a broad belief that people who don’t agree with you are either too stupid or too uncaring to know better. But there was a distinct difference between those who had watched or listened to someone speak the words out loud and those who had read the identical words as text. Those who had listened or watched someone say the words were less likely to dismiss the speaker as uninformed or heartless than they were if they were just reading the commenter’s words.”

I understand how this happens, but I do not condone it.  Fortunately, by the grace of the Holy Spirit I have been able to control my urges to engage in this behavior on social media.   As church leaders, we need to set the example of proper Christian conversation, particularly outside the church building.  Matthew 12:36 reads, “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.

Prayer:  Dear God, Please remove our fleshly desires of pride, and replace the void with love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

 

Meet the Author

Todd Shupe is a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men and is in training to be a Certified Lay Minister through the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. He currently serves as the President of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men and is a Board Member for Gulf South Men and serves on the Action Team for The Kingdom Group. He is a volunteer for the Walk to Emmaus, Grace Camp, and Iron Sharpens Iron. Todd resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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