Shining or Shaming?

Teaching (and even admonishing) can be done without insulting or disparaging others.  Righteous indignation is something Christians will and should feel, but surely that doesn’t give us the right to passionately belittle others.  How we speak is just as important as what we speak.  And although tone is not as easily “heard” in print, word choice conveys quite a bit of the attitude behind the writer.  When making a point, orally or typewritten, consider the following reasons to omit offensive language:

To practice the Golden Rule.  We all want to learn and grow, which involves being reproved at times.  But none of us wants an insult included with the rebuke.  We would feel personally attacked instead of lovingly corrected.  We would ask the one teaching or admonishing us to do so without being ugly or smart-alecky.  So if we prefer to be taught with respect, why would it be okay to teach someone else in a disrespectful way (Matt. 7:12)?

To avoid sounding like the world.  Rudeness and name-calling are all around us.  We’re to act differently, and react differently.  Our words when teaching, correcting, or convincing need to be obviously loving, or we’re guilty of conforming to the world in an area the Bible places great emphasis on–our speech (Col. 4:6).

To demonstrate love.  The people in our lives that we dearly love sometimes need admonishing.  How do we speak to them?  Patiently.  Kindly.  Tenderly.  We would never dream of hurting or ridiculing them; we just want to help them!  So we choose our words carefully in hopes of conveying that.  If love is our motivation behind convicting others, let’s make sure no one ever has to question that (1 Cor. 13:4).

To avoid detracting from the message.  Some might think that using scorn or derision makes what we have to say more emphatic.  It emphasizes something alright.  It emphasizes the personality of the speaker/ teacher.  Is that the objective?  Speaking the truth in a respectful way does not dilute it or make it less meaningful.  On the contrary, it shows we care about getting it right (Eph. 4:15).

To represent the Lord’s church accurately.  The world is watching and listening.  They see our interactions with one another.  What are they supposed to think when they see us insulting others (while supposedly standing for what’s right), using words like “stupid,” “idiotic,” etc.?  They know disrespect when they see it, and it has no business coming out of the mouths (or keyboards) of Christians (John 13:35).

We must teach and admonish, but we must also be careful to do so in a way that shines the Light instead of shaming the church.

Prayer for Today:  Lord, may my passionate convictions be tempered with the tongue of lovingkindness.  

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