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
In today’s culture, “speaking your mind” is considered a virtue and a hailed as a sign of good leadership. But is this trait something the Bible commends? Should Christians be known for “speaking their mind?” There are several truths about our speech we should consider from Scripture:
1. The Bible commends honest speech. God hates a “lying tongue” (Prov. 6:17). Lying is a sin, the product of a fallen nature. Lying is the work of the enemy. Truthful speech is the sign of a redeemed heart. (See Zech. 8:16; Eph. 4:25; John 8:44)
2. The Bible commends truthful speech for rebuke. The wounds of a friend are faithful, (Prov. 27:6), while flattery is the tool to leverage proximity for personal gain (Prov. 29:5). Nathan courageously confronted David over his sin with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 12:17). Jesus gives instructions designed to restore a sinful brother into loving community (Matt. 1815-17). Paul considers such a speech a sign of love, from one brother or sister, to another (Gal. 6:1).
3. The Bible commends speaking against sin and heresy. Jesus very publicly confronted errant religious leaders. When the heart of the Gospel message was at stake, Paul was unafraid to confront Peter publicly (Gal. 2:11-13). Much of the New Testament, consists of public letters that contain stinging rebuke of sin. Paul says that polemics are not only important within the church, but also without, as we are tasked with engaging the reigning worldview arguments and presenting alternative, biblical worldview (2 Cor. 10:5).
4. The Bible seems to commend the use of satire and other forms of creative engagement. Elijah playfully taunted the false prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:27). Jesus used parables, metaphors, and similes in communicating truth. Paul was often acerbic in his rebuke of the Corinthians. Sharply worded polemics, uplifting satire, and, at times, sarcasm, can be employed in a way that reflects faithful Christian witness. However, this must be done within the boundaries of what is considered civil and wise speech (more to follow).
5. The Bible commends civility and respect in speech. In the Scriptures, kindness, respect, and good manners are not simply “nice” things for people, but are considered Christian virtues. Peter, addressing the persecution and marginalization of Christians, exhorts God’s people to be courageous and civil (1 Pet. 3:15). Peter also reminds us to treat others with dignity (1 Pet. 2:17). Lastly, one of the cornerstone characteristics of qualified church leaders is gentleness (Titus 1; 1 Tim. 3).
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24a
Putting off the old and putting on the new is the principle by which Christ can become evident in our experience. Paul’s admonition is to be constantly recognizing and rejecting these false, underlying assumptions that come from the old self, the old way of living. It is not merely deeds, but outlooks and attitudes. This is what causes the problem, and this is what we must reject.
Put off means to divest yourself of something, to take it off. Paul is using the simplest of terms to illustrate what we must do in the realm of thought, of the attitudes of life. We must reject those basic assumptions that have caused our trouble; taking them off just as you would put off your dirty clothes.
We must do this because the corruption of life comes from these wrong attitudes. Paul says the former manner of life is corrupt, decayed, dead, foul, selfish, unhappy, restless. These are the things that have made life unhappy or miserable. He points out we can recognize these attitudes by the way they operate. They are deceitful lusts. We invariably associate the word lust with something sexual. But this word is much broader than that. It means any urge or basic drive. These deceitful urges are constantly coming to us as we react to various situations in which we find ourselves.
The first step in experiencing what God intends for us is to put off the old. The next step is to recognize the wonderful possibilities of the new life. In that phrase, to be made new in the attitude of your minds, you have the fundamental difference between a Christian and a non-Christian. It is true that non-Christians sometimes realize that things are wrong in their lives, and so they change them. But they merely change to another expression of the same basic egocentricity. They change the outer form, but the problem remains basically the same.
But of all people, Christians alone have the possibility of doing something entirely different, living by an entirely different principle, because they have been renewed in the attitude of their minds. And that happens in the new life as the Spirit of God comes into the heart of the believer. When we believe in Jesus Christ and receive Him as our Lord and Savior, we are renewed in the attitudes of our minds. The new self is in the likeness of God: it is the life of God; it is the image of Jesus Christ; it is His life lived in you. So put on that kind of life, because it is available to you.
As many of you already know that the outbreak of respiratory illness brought about by the 2019 novel coronavirus was first detected in Wuhan City in China. Though presumably this virus is common in many species of animals and can infect people, it has been reportedly spreading between people. Thus, it causes concern to some of you, which is understandable.
Outbreaks of such virus infection among people are always a serious public health threat, however, we must not allow fear to control our lives. We need to understand the severity of the illness, the characteristics of the virus, how well it spreads between people, and the medical measures available to control the impact. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) risk assessment, excepting the healthcare workers caring for coronavirus patients and other close contacts will have increased risk, for the general American public, the health risk from such virus is considered low.
Admittedly as of this week, there are 2 cases confirmed in Los Angeles County and Orange County. Our local public health agency announced that despite these cases, there is no immediate threat to the general public, no special precaution is required, people should go about doing their business as usual. The risk from the novel coronavirus to spread in Los Angeles County and Orange County residents is deemed to be low at this time.
The current situation in the U.S. is stable. Though a few imported cases of novel coronavirus infection in people have been confirmed in 4 states, no person-to person transmission has been detected with this virus except one from the wife to husband. Moreover, all schools continue to operate as usual. Nevertheless, our Church recommends that everyday preventive actions should be taken to stop the spread of germs and stay healthy.
1. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
2. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
3. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
4. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
5. Stay home when you are sick.
6. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, and then throw tissue in the trash.
7. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
People returning from Wuhan City and its neighboring cities who have symptoms of respiratory illness (including fever, cough, shortness of breath…) should report to health authorities immediately. Otherwise, if there are no symptoms, a voluntarily stay home would provide a peace of mind to all concerned.
Prayer is the only antidote to all our fears. We must believe that God is in control and He cares for all our needs. I sincerely appreciate some of your anguish and concern, but please know that you are a beloved child of God and member of our church community. The Lord promises to be with us always. I encourage each of you to give yourself time to process and to offer love to each other. Be sensitive to the spiritual conditions of others, and pray for one another.
Lastly, let us devote some time to pray for the people in Wuhan. May the Lord show His mercy and compassion to all the sick, and may the spread of this novel coronavirus be curtailed as soon as possible. I encourage everyone to be in prayer over the next few months for our church, and for all those who are scared or hurting. My door is always open if you need to talk or pray with someone. May we all continue to love one another as Christ loves us.
May the peace of God that surpasses all understanding be with us all!