When You're Wrong, Even Though You're Right
"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." Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)
My stomach churned in a mix of grief and anger. I was shocked with disbelief. A Bible study leader I knew had blatantly disobeyed God's truths. I was frustrated, and honestly I was angry, too.
Righteous anger. Have you ever experienced it? That justifiable anger that rises up within you when you know someone is acting in a way that dishonors God. That anger Jesus expressed when He walked into the Temple and found the moneychangers doing business in God's house, defiling Holy ground.
Righteous anger is a good thing. However, what we do with it is another matter.
I shared my feelings about this leader's behavior with my husband and another couple during dinner one night. Was I gossiping? In the moment, I didn't think so. In fact, I felt okay talking about this leader since they'd engaged in behavior I thought was "unchristian."
Everyone at dinner agreed with me and disapproved, which validated my feelings. I took comfort in how good it felt that I wasn't alone.
However, the next day as I sat in church, God spoke in a powerful way through the sermon. Our pastor taught about idle gossip and character assassination, and how our words matter. Each word penetrated my heart like a double-edged sword.
I too was a spiritual leader. And I had disobeyed God's Word as I judged another believer in the presence of others. Had I talked out of righteous anger? No. Idle gossip? Yes. Character assassination? Definitely.
In the quietness of that moment in church, I felt conviction.
Not guilt. Not shame. But conviction.
The difference between these emotions is that guilt and shame are about us, and they are unproductive. They leave us stagnant, in a bad place with God and others.
Conviction, on the other hand, is about God. It's a productive emotion from the Holy Spirit to let us know that we have not pleased Him. With conviction, God speaks truth into our hearts and empowers us to change so we live in a way that's pleasing to Him.
That day, the Holy Spirit gave me a truth that I committed to memory.
"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." (Ephesians 4:29 NIV)
I promised the Lord that morning, I will hold my tongue. I will only speak words that will build others up and benefit those listening. Or, at least, I will try.
Paul gives a great tip on how to accomplish this in 2 Corinthians 10:5:
"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (NIV)
Next time, I commit to take my words captive BEFORE they come out of my mouth. I pray that I will not speak words that tear down, but only words that build up. Will you join me in this resolve?
Dear Lord, help me to be a woman after Your own heart, one who speaks only what is helpful for building others up. And when I am tempted to speak unwholesome or critical words, help me to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Thank You that in Your strength I will be successful because I can do all things through You Who strengthens me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
How can you take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ? List some practical examples from your own experiences.
Ephesians 5:1 calls us to live a life of love. Spend some time thinking about how this call to live a life of love intersects the call to speak only words that build others up rather than tear them down.
2 Corinthians 10:5, "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (NIV)
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