While recently memorizing Paul’s letter to Titus, one verse in particular hit me hard. It occurred at the same time that my church was having difficulty with a company we had hired for some work, and there weren’t too many nice thoughts that I could muster about them. Yet in the final chapter to young Titus, we read:
Remind them…to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people (3:1-2).
Oh, the sins of the tongue…
The Bible says a lot about the words we use. Probably because life is so defined by words. Words were the means through which God formed most of his creation, the words of Scripture are the primary way that God speaks to us, Jesus is called the Word, words allow us to communicate with others in an understandable way, and words are what I’m typing right now on my laptop.
Jesus said of words: “Out of the abundance of the heart [a person’s] mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). So, what we say and the way we say it communicate a lot about what’s going on in our hearts. Even if we are trying to make ourselves look good and speak kindness through lies, the fact that such are lies indicate at heart that we are liars.
We see in Paul’s statement that as Christians words of kindness, gentleness, and love are not to be reserved for our families or our brothers and sisters in Christ alone. This is much broader. We are to speak evil of NO ONE. We are to show perfect courtesy toward ALL people. These capitalized words themselves carry much weight. These are words painted with a broad sweeping brush that extends categorically to every person no matter their background, ethnic group, social class, gender, and deeds.
The reason why our words matter so much in this instance is our witness: “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared…” (3:3-4).
Some people think that in some circles the word gospel gets thrown around too easily. Not everything is a gospel issue, they say. That’s an argument for a different time, but in this case—what we say to and about others is a gospel issue.
Our words are to reflect the fact that we have passed from life to death. “We were once” is a reminder of the sin that ruled our lives before we came to know Jesus. “But when” reminds us of the amazing grace of God that pulled us out of our hopeless estate. If you keep reading in Titus you see that this is not based on anything we have done, but is solely the kindness of God to a bunch of undeserving people.
Not only do our words to and about others show that we have undergone a personal heart transformation, they also show that Jesus is the Savior of all who believe in him. The gospel, after all, is a message of words.
Paul’s admonition seems worthy of special attention in today’s political environment. You don’t have to look hard to see that it is difficult even for a group of Christians to not quarrel and put each other down on social media when presidential preference is the topic. If we can’t speak to brothers and sisters in the faith in gentleness and love, then how will we speak of and to those who have a drastically different belief system than ours?
Our confidence is in the One who claims the title the Word of Life. Therefore, our words are to be as life giving fountains (Proverbs 10:11).
So how will we choose to speak to and about others…?