My heart heavy, I was tempted to park my grocery cart and interrupt their conversation. Though I hadn’t heard the entirety of their acidic discussion, I caught enough to know the four shoppers were deeply dissatisfied with individuals at their local church. Ironically, not one of them looked any happier for their venting. I didn’t know them, those they were talking about, or even their church, but I grieved over this verbal ripping apart of the body of Christ in a public store aisle.
To verbally destroy one who has been created in God’s image is not only inconsistent with the character of Christ, but our disparaging comments grieve the Holy Spirit as well (Ephesians 4:30). We may pretend to tolerate those who frustrate us or make us angry, but the words we speak about them are a direct window into our hearts (Ephesians 4:15,29; Luke 6:45).
Granted, every local church has its issues, and invariably even the healthiest of congregations will experience times of conflict. But the defining mark of Jesus’ transformation in us is the way we address our differences within the body. In the times when our concerns with a fellow believer are justified, we should look to Scripture to find the appropriate response (Matthew 18:15-17). Gossip can only create more trouble.
We’ve all acted like those shoppers at times—dishing out destructive words. But Paul tells us to “get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior” (Ephesians 4:31). We’re to be a distinctive people who value and respect others as we “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). And as we submit to the Holy Spirit, Christ-honoring words will flow from our hearts and mouths.
NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Exodus 40:1-38
Read Jude 1:20-21 and consider what it means to build up other believers instead of tearing them down.
How can we work through our grievances with others in the body of Christ in a Christlike manner? Why are we tempted to tear people apart verbally behind their backs?