“Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29
The following TED talk by Sherry Turkle was the source for the opening thoughts of this message.
It is hard work to have conversations in person. There is body language, eye contact, verbal and listening skills. So when a tool comes along that helps eliminate the volatile variables shouldn’t we all buy in and use it?
We can and we do. At what cost? We can express ourselves freely online and find out instantly whether people resonate with what we are sharing. They click the “like” button or they “favorite” or share your thought. That can be good, but then there are times when it goes horribly south…fast.
The internet was supposed to be a place where the exchange of thoughts and ideas could happen with greater ease. This was to be a vehicle to aid us in brainstorming about the future with a higher success rate. Instead, humankind allowed its dark broken side to hijack it and the internet has become a playground for predatory and dehumanizing activity. This kind of actions are so ugly and rampant that professionals have titled them “trolling” and “cyber-bullying.”
What began with great promise became a battlefield of words. So many people are talking, but few are listening. We need to ask the question; “What happens to us if we subject ourselves to a constant barrage of evil language online?” We may find that is draining, because our outlook on life is entrenched in cynicism, mistrust, and self-righteous anger. Our bodies, emotions, and souls are being decimated by evil talk.
What a Mess in Ephesus
Sadly, the existence of evil talk is not a modern invention. In fact there is no place in history that is free from its presence and influence. This includes the Church. Why? Well, the church is a collection of broken people.
That does not mean that it is okay for any church to be a royal mess where people tear each other down with their evil talk. Far from it. No one woke up this morning and thought “You know, I am going to finish this cup of coffee, head on down to the church and get my daily dose of verbal abuse.” Of course not! That is absurd. We know that, so why don’t people at church change the way they talk to each other?
That is Paul’s message to the Christians in Ephesus. Instead of looking at this as a book of the Bible we should call it what it is; a letter “To the mess in Ephesus.”
According to the letter the Christians were lying about each other in court to gain financial advantage over each other, they were stealing from each other, they were malicious, full of anger towards each other, obscene and irreverent. Basically, Paul tells them that he can not tell any difference between them and someone who sacrifices to idols and engages in Pagan worship.
Paul tells them that this has to stop. You cannot say that you Love God and then treat each other like garbage. You are made in the image of God and have been set free by the resurrected Jesus to live into what that image was designed to be for this world. That person that you are insulting and condemning is also made in the image of God and Jesus went to the cross and rose from the grave for them too.
Thank Filled Hearts
How then, as people set apart by Christ, can we remove evil talk from our tongues? Jesus tells us that what comes out of us is evidence of what is in our hearts. We can only express that which our reality inside of us. If we surround our daily living with evil and fruitless talk then come Sunday it will be hard for us to lift our Alleluias.
I heard a worship leader say once that you can only lead the people in worship if you lead a life of worship outside of Sunday. That is a good word for us all. If we want to build a community in Galesburg of unity and grace (as I believe the Lord is calling us to do) then we are challenged to adjust how we speak and the talk we surround ourselves with in the Sunday afternoon through Saturday evening time.
The Apostle Paul told the Ephesians that the quickest way to correct evil talk is to “let there be thanksgiving.” We have to search the moment, search our hearts, and ask the question is there something that we can thank God for right now? This is not some kind of mind over matter trick this is heart work. This is disciplining ourselves. This is spiritual rehab for the soul.
Look for the things to thank God for and don’t what until our Holiday in November, start today. When you go from here take a moment to find something to thank God and offer up a prayer.
Through this act of worship we find a strength that is beyond our comprehension. There is testimony from those who have suffered in life, even the injustice of false imprisonment, who have sung hymns of praise and thanksgiving. God is in the act of saying thanks and will shove the evil talk out of our hearts.
As this happens will find the strength to live, to hope, to give and receive love. Life will be joyous, not because life went our way, or that we had more things and money than we could ever imagine. We will be full aware and within the reality that we are God’s beloved and our God will be in our love.
May God fill us all with a language of thanks so that we may rise above the evil talk.