….May break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” We have all said that, and at the same time, been hurt by mean-spirited words. Words are the stuff of real bruises, breaks and bitterness that are not soon mended. As a matter of fact, the bruises of words hurt worse, last longer and heal more slowly than those we gain by falls and bumps.
It has been my experience in ministry that few people have power over their tongues to withhold from saying that which will be used for evil. James put it this way: For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, it tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: but the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison (James 2:7-8).
Common folks and kings must have marveled at the “grace and truth” that filled the lips of our Lord (John 1:14). It is His Spirit that desires to control our tongue.
There is an amazing account found in Galatians chapter one that for years I have not seen in such a marvelous light. Paul writes beginning in verse twenty-one says, Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; and was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ: but they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed. And they glorified God in me.
Paul here is describing the leadership of God in his life. God is caring for him and teaching him the truth. Upon that path, Paul came here to Syria and Cilicia. We, of course, do well not to forget that the Apostle’s conversion was the stuff of legends. He was the greatest adversary of the faith and is now preaching Jesus Christ. Acts chapter nine gives us great light on the skepticism that arose about his conversion. Ananias himself recognized that this “religion” thing might be Paul’s latest trick, but God had saved him and changed him (II Corinthians 5:17). What God had done in his life was miraculous!
Now coming to these churches of Syria and Cilicia, Paul is not recognized by face but is in attendance with the church. In verse twenty-three he says, “…they had heard only…” They had not “seen” Paul, so they thought, but were discussing this great work of God in his salvation. And in God’s presence and Paul’s, they glorified God for what God had done. Oh, what those words must have meant to the Apostle Paul!
I am so grateful that the story reads as it does. I am afraid that in many places and churches, sadly even in mine at times, the word best remembered is not one of “glorification” or edification, but of criticism and skepticism. These are sticks and stones that bruise new converts and render them “injured” for many years to come. They are bruises that often I as the pastor cannot mend.
Truly the grace of God reigning in these believer’s hearts helped them to speak with encouragement about a man sitting right in their midst. It is the desire of my heart to be such a preacher and lead such a people. The Bible says, Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man (Colossians 4:6).
Determine to be a help to your church and pastor by being a blessing, not a hindrance and a stumbling block by being a critic and a gossip.