In the 1960s a boxer by the name of Muhammad Ali “elevated” the “art” of trash talk to new levels. He even released a record of his trash talk as a form of poetry. Since that time, society has gotten to the point where trash talk, and it’s more evil twin smack talk, is not only normal and accepted, it’s expected. It used to be a practice in sports only, but now we see that attitude in all areas of life. It is a practice that becomes gloating at times, threatening at other times, and is often a form of bullying. It seems as though we can no longer have rational discussions about anything without trash talk rearing its ugly head.
As the rudeness of trash talking seems to take over society, we in the church have been given the responsibility to stem the tide. Sure, Paul directed trash talk at sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:55-56) but he wasn’t dealing with people. We deal with people every day. People that are hurting. People that are boastful and experts in the field of trash talk. We are called not to tear people down but to show them the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29)
I’m not sure what kind of situation Paul was dealing with in Ephesus. Apparently, anger was being expressed and people were telling all kinds of lies. It’s hard to be kind when you’re angry. It’s hard to be calm when you’re being lied to. Perhaps the words of Paul were written to those people who might have a justifiable reason for being angry. I’m sure that the people in Ephesus liked to nurse their anger just like we do today. The words of Paul reminded the Ephesians, as they remind us today, that our job is not to tear people down or prove them wrong; our job is to build people up in the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. That means that I don’t always have to “be right.” That means that even when I am right and in the right, I don’t need to claim my victory and gloat over my opponent. In fact, it may be better for me in some instances when I am in the right to lay down my arms and surrender, so to speak, in order to show the mercy and grace of Christ.
Words have an amazing power. They can cut deep into the heart, or they can be a healing balm. They can build walls between people or they can build bridges that lead to the grace of Christ. As Christians, our responsibility is to be a balm to the wounded. We are called to build bridges, not walls. We are not to kick people while they’re down, we are to extend those arms of love to help them up. Words that are helpful to others and benefit those who listen bring healing, build bridges, and extend those arms of love. We speak those wholesome words we need to speak when our words are seasoned with grace. In our own troubles, God brought grace to help us through. Rather than thinking we are God’s avenging angels to execute wrath on the sinner who deserves it, we are called to be God’s instruments of grace to a hurting person who needs to know and experience God’s love. We are called to be kind to each other. We are called to be kind to all people. People recycle all the words we throw out at them. Let those words be words of kindness, of grace, of mercy.
Lord God, so many are hurting in this world we live in. Let my words be full of grace, overflowing with the kindness of Your love and mercy. Let me speak words to build others up and not tear them down. Let me always be an example of the love of Jesus to those I meet, and to those who read my words.