Do all men know that you are a disciple of Christ? Can they tell through the love you demonstrate to your brethren and your fellow man? John 13:35 states
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (NIV).
I suspect people might know by seeing you feed the hungry, clothe the naked, help the homeless, visit those sick or in prison, and numerous other acts of kindness. Seeing people in action is a good way to know.
If someone heard you speak, would they know? How do you use your tongue? What do you say about fellow church members, other churches, your neighbors, or your enemies? Do you gossip about the shortcomings and problems of your brethren? Do you share your neighbors’ sins with others? Does it somehow make you feel more powerful and righteous when you speak ill of those whose doctrines differ from yours? Are you a peacemaker? Do your words demonstrate love?
If I referred a friend to your church, would they find thankful brethren lifting each other up, praising God, and sharing their testimony (Colossians 3:15-16)? Would they hear gossip, filthy language, and slander? Paul told the Ephesians,
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers (Ephesians 4:290 NIV).
What things do you share at work about your peers, your boss, your fellow brethren, other churches, or your fellow man? Based on your conversation, would the people at your place of business know you are a Christian? Would they want to go to church with you, go to any church, or even believe?
Paul admonishes the church at Colossae:
Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Don’t miss a trick. Make the most of every opportunity. Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out (Colossians 4:5-6, MES).
Are we gracious in our speech within our own families? Do we argue with brothers, sisters, parents, and close friends who don’t see everything just the way we do? Do we speak ill of our spouse to our children or friends? Do we bring out the best in our children with our words, or do we cut them down and belittle them? Do we say grace and thank God, but curse our family and friends?
Throughout the Bible we are told of the power of our words—and indeed they are powerful. Words can make war or peace. It is important that we use our tongues to speak in a way that edifies all that we love. Luke 10:27 tells us we should
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and,
Love your neighbor as yourself (NIV).
Paul reminds us of the power and love that come through the Holy Spirit.
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7 NIV).
Love is powerful. It is the first of the
fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22). It is the greatest of these: faith, hope, and love (1 Corinthians 13:13). It is how we know God:
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love (John 4:8 NIV).
We should then use our words to speak this power—to express this love to our LORD and Savior Jesus Christ, our neighbors, ourselves, and even our enemies (Luke 6:35). In spite of these admonitions, we seem to forget the power of love as we criticize our friends, gossip about brethren, and speak discouragement and resentment to those around us.
We start speaking in anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy words. In these circumstances we are not reflecting the powerful love of our Savior. Yet we still call ourselves Christians!
James tells us this is a problem:
Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless (James 1:26 NIV).
We must learn to tame our tongues so our religion is not worthless.
Changing our behavior is difficult but doable. Paul says in Philippians 4:13 that through Christ we can do all things. We must stop and think before we speak: Will people know I am Christ’s disciple when they hear me speak? Will these words bring peace or strife? Would I say this if Jesus were standing here beside me? Do my words demonstrate my love for my fellow man? If we can’t answer yes to these questions, we probably should not say whatever is on the tip of our tongues.
James tells us:
But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so…(James 3: 8-10 NIV).
We, of and by ourselves, cannot tame our tongues—but through Jesus Christ we can. Let us show our fellowship and friendship with Christ by reflecting his merciful love, not only through our actions, but also our speech.
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:17 NIV).
Let all men know you are Christ’s disciple and friend by speaking with his wisdom and love.