Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:29-32 ESV
I have been asking myself, “What is happening to our city?” As I see the violence, the hatred in people, the broken relationships, and the lives lost, I am weighed down by emotions of anguish, sadness, anger, and confusion all at once. I feel like a surfer being pummelled by a giant wave, thrown into the ocean under a strong current, not knowing which way is up. It is easy to want to react immediately, but I remember a surf coach once advised to remain calm, pause, and look for the bubbles rising to the surface before swimming. If you act out of panic, you may be swimming yourself to the bottom!
Many of us feel like we are under an emotional current amidst the chaos, but we need to be careful to not let emotions or opinions cloud our judgment and lose sight of God’s truth. Like the surfer tumbling in the bottom of the ocean, we need to pause, and “look for the bubbles” and figure out our way up - to realign ourselves with true north before we speak or act.
In this verse, Paul is addressing the believers in Ephesus to encourage their walk as the body of Christ. He reminds us to be careful with our words, to speak with the intention to build up and encourage one another. He alerts us to get rid of all bitterness, anger, and slander, as these can critically hinder our rightful posture towards God and others. In the heat of our social tension, we need to be cautious not to let our emotions hinder us from living the way we are called to. As the body under the authority of Christ, we are called to be kind, gentle, empathetic, and forgiving despite our pain and disagreement on issues.
Our emotions can easily steer our actions; just in the past week, I confess mine have led to thoughts that are not of God. We need to be self-aware, and let our emotions settle, then look for the rising bubbles to guide our eyes upward, so to be confident that we are acting under the authority of God’s truth. Even our words have so much power (James 3); a text, a social media post, can sway people toward good or anger. Let us be cautious with our written or spoken words to build people up rather than setting them off. Let us be alert and self-controlled (1 Peter 5:8), and to regularly calibrate knowing that we are even more prone to sin in this tension.
Let us practice the pause and look for the bubbles by:
- Thanking God who is holy and continually helping us to be holy as well.
- Asking the question each time before we act or speak/post, “will this honour Him and build people up towards love and truth?”