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Words Are Building Blocks, Not Wrecking Balls
Language is one of the most incredible, complex, and beautiful gifts God has given to humanity. More than any other creature on the face of the planet, we can communicate and express ourselves to a highly specific degree. But even though this ability carries tremendous possibility, it also, like all abilities in our fallen world, can be abused and misused. As James says in his New Testament letter, “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be” (James 3:10).
So what are words and communication supposed to be for? How can we use our language more appropriately? How do we disagree with people without contributing to divisiveness or polarization? For this, we turn to the letter to the Ephesians.
In this letter, the apostle states that there should be a noticeable difference between those who follow Jesus and those who do not. Those who do not follow Jesus “are darkened in their understanding” (4:18), have “lost all sensitivity” (4:19), and “indulge in every kind of impurity” (4:19). But those who follow Jesus “were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires, to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (4:22-24). This includes our speech. The apostle says each of us “must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor” (4:25), and to “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” (4:29).
It would seem then that God created language and bestowed it upon humanity to be a blessing. And, even though we have corrupted it for so long and gotten used to misusing it, in Christ we are able (and expected) to correct that behavior. Perhaps a good place to start would be by recognizing what the primary function of language actually is. If we see it as a wrecking ball, we will primarily use it to wound and tear others down. But if we see it as building blocks, we can start to use it to build others up, build relationships, and build inroads across divides and disagreements.
May God give us the grace, both in person and on social media, to use our words constructively to seek blessing and shalom for all.
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