Be ye angry, and sin not: Ephesians 4.26
I am angry about my own communication sin. I am angry about the amount of corrupt communication that I hear. I am angry about what is unsaid about corrupt communication. I am angry about the lack of concern regarding corrupt communication. Can anyone else hear the rude sarcasm that flows out of mouths? Does anyone else hear the name calling, insults, and gossip that flows? I am angry about the arguing, the slander, and the dogmatic opinions. It appears that very few people are concerned about the ridiculous amount of corrupt communication that permeates our local churches.
In the fall of 2013 I began my teaching career. During teacher’s orientation I recall a discussion about sarcasm. I was above sarcasm, or so I thought. I didn’t realize that over the years I had established an arsenal of clever one-liners, good sarcasm, funny stuff. Over the course of my life I had developed a tool box for corrupt communication. Sarcasm is sin.
My first year of teaching I thought I was real funny. Some of the students got a real kick out of my one-liners. Unfortunately I developed a reputation; I was sarcastic. And then one day I heard a student repeat one of my sarcastic jokes. It was not funny; the sarcasm was rude and hurtful. It hurt me to hear the students using my clever sarcasm, and it hurt me that I influenced them to use corrupt communication. Since that day I have battled my sin of sarcasm. Ironically, (as a teacher) I am often tempted to use sarcasm. Students don’t always say the smartest things, and many don’t listen well.
Shortly after clear recognition and confession of my sin I started to meditate on Ephesians 4.29-32. I became sensitive to corrupt communication and my hypersensititvity revealed the commonness of corrupt communication. I developed a message that I preach and teach every year at the beginning of summer day camp, the beginning of school, and whenever necessary (when corrupt communication is out of control). Children have a real problem with corrupt communication. Sadly, in my experience adults also frequently use corrupt communication. Sadly, both children and adults speak corrupt communication without sorrow, regret, or repentance.
I am going to write a word-by-word, verse-by-verse exposition and application of the following verses. The exposition will be very similar to what I share with my students on a regular basis. I will begin with this, “we are called to be peacemakers, not trouble makers.”
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. Ephesians 4.29-32
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth is an imperative, a command. Paul is not making a suggestion; corrupt communication is a serious problem. Corrupt communication is a sin, and the Holy Spirit is telling readers to immediately stop. In this passage Paul is discussing speech, but since technology has advanced to writing, social networking, blogging, and texting we can apply what we learn to the written word. The word corrupt indicates rotten and putrified communication. Corrupt communication includes cursing, foul language, sarcasm, insults, gossip, slander, lying, and flattery (and some things I have probably forgotten). Spontaneous responses will often include corrupt communication, or at the very least, an absence of grace and edification. We can also be vindictive and cruel; two characteristics that will also precede corrupt communication.
I don’t know anyone with a habit of eating rotten and putrified food. But I know many people (including myself) who have developed a habit of rotten communication. If we are unwilling to eat rotten food, than why are we so quick to spew rottenness out of our mouth? Paul would not command the church to stop if we were unable. First we must become fully aware of our sin, repent, and ask for God’s help. The Holy Spirit plays a large role in our sanctification, which will be revealed in verse thirty. When Paul tells the church to stop sinning he always explains how to replace our sin. Secondly, we must submit to the authority of God’s Word and to the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
Paul writes, but that which is good to the use of edifying. Edifying indicates building up and promoting one’s spiritual growth. Edifying can include compliments, encouragement, and sharing God’s Word. If we are thoughtful about our speech and honest with ourselves, we can see our negligence of encouragement. Encouragement contrasts corrupt communication; corrupt communication tears people down and discourages them. I do not believe that edifying involves the building of personal self-esteem. Encouragement should not lead us to think highly of ourselves, but to think highly of others. If you think with me for a moment and reflect upon corrupt communication, you will realize that corrupt communication is nearly always directed to others, in front of others. Corrupt communication breaks down relationships. It is always easier to use corrupt communication; you could say it is more natural. Like my teacher says, “the sinful nature is selfishness.” Edification and encouragement requires selflessness; both actions build others and they build quality relationships. Paul commands readers to edify others; neglecting to edify others is disobedience.
Paul concludes his thought (God’s thought), “that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” As Christians we must be ministers. We must be generous givers. When we think of giving we tend to think of money. Our generosity and gifts must go beyond our wallets and pocketbooks. Are we good at ministering grace? Grace produces pleasure and joy. When we communicate with others, do they walk away experiencing joy? Does my/our speech make people feel rotten or blessed? Right speech involves purposeful thinking. Gracious speech only occurs with purpose, partnership (Holy Spirit), and after much prayer. I confess that I have a bad habit of talking about myself, my own needs, and my own complaints. The fragility of our relationships don’t allow us to talk about ourselves. In conversation the quickest way to discourage others is to talk about ourselves. Ministering indicates giving to others; we are not the source of joy or goodness, but we can share the joy and goodness that we experience in Christ. When we talk about ourselves we are not giving; we are taking.