Whatcha Gonna Say?
“Speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15).
During the current state of matters an abundance of animated conversation fills our airways, press, and social media. Wanna join the discussion? Unfortunately, much of the discussion (if we can call it discussion) is an in-your-face rejection of the values we hold close to our hearts. We have three choices: 1) Say nothing; 2) Speak out in a similar back-atcha manner; or 3) Speak up with measured, grace-filled response.
As we noted before, Edmund Burke famously said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” If we grant that burning (other people’s property), looting (other people’s possessions), and murder are evil adventures, then our silence is an unacceptable acquiescence to such evil. We must say something. But, whatcha gonna say?
It is so easy to “give back in kind,” isn’t it‽ We constantly hear intemperate threats and demands, backed by violence or the threat of violence. It’s too easy to push back. In fact, there has been far too much pushing back…by all sides of the conflict. Increased anger and redoubled resistance, the chief results of pushing back, do not work toward amicable resolutions.
It is easy to give back in kind; but it is never kind to do so. It never reflects the grace of God. Peter teaches us to respond otherwise. He pointed to the behavior of Jesus during His crucifixion: “While being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting to Him who judges righteously” (1 Pet. 2:23). “Reviled” refers to the taunting words and disparaging remarks hurled at Jesus. He did not respond in kind. And He refused to threaten any kind of revenge or retaliation. Instead, He did and said such things as might soften the hearts of His aggressors. That is how we bring grace to the situation. Peter said: “For this is grace, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly” (1 Pet. 2:19).
That leads to point 3: measured, grace-imbuing responses. As Paul said: “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such as is good for edification according to the need, so that it will give grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29). “Unwholesome” means rotten. If you have an impulse to blurt out something in response to your agitation, but someone might say of it, “What a rotten thing to say!” then you know it falls into this don’t-say-it category of Paul’s. Think of some other response. Think of something that fills everyone who hears you with a sense of grace or kindness or humanity or healing.
We can say things about people: call them names, impugn their motives, challenge their ethics, etc. We can, but we shouldn’t. It does nobody any good. We can be just as ugly in approach as the loudest rioter. We can, but it just makes us ugly, too. Instead, we can speak out against the mayhem and violence, but in a way that respects all human dignity and is designed to reason with reasonable people for healing, both personal and cultural. Healing is critical and your words do make a difference.
Finally, did you notice that both Peter and Paul called for the kind of talk that brings grace to the hearers? This depends on forethought and wisdom. As Paul said, “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (Col. 4:5–6).
Let it be on your heart to heal through grace: well-thought words that bring peace and reason.