Well, folks, it is confession time again. The other day I was talking with a friend in Christ and she said, “Michael, I am not perfect. Only God is.” Without thinking, I got into my old “fix it” mode and commenced to tell that dear friend about things I had seen in them that needed to be tweaked… of course by me!
Thank God that she pulled me up short in the midst of my “fix- her- upper” and said, “Why do you do this? This really hurts me when you go at me like this.” I heard the hurt in her voice, stopped and apologized. She asked if I got in that mode because of how my parents treated me. I had to think about that. I grew up with a mother who was constantly finding fault with me. Pick, pick, pick. And my dad could never affirm me no matter how hard I tried to please him. As I thought about it, I concluded that some kind of superiority complex is being fed when I chose to point out the faults of others. This pattern is hard to break after being instilled in me during my formative years, by the military, many bosses I have had and again by some church leadership that I have been under.
Yet, what does the Bible say about such things? How about the above verse? Don’t use harmful words! I am an expert at using words that go in like a knife. It just comes naturally. One of my sons was an expert at verbal put-downs. While in his teens, he walked up to a blond girl, looked closely at her hair and asked, “Tell me, how do you dye your roots brown like that?” He and his buddies got a big laugh out of it, but she did not.
No, this is not what our opening verse is talking about. We are to let only helpful words that build people up come out of our mouths. So many of us find it easier to pull people down. After all, Satan is the accuser of the brethren and all too often he is right there to put words in our mouths so we can damage our fellow members of the body of Christ. I am so thankful that this dear sister showed me my fault. It was the Lord speaking through her and by the time she was through, I had tears in my eyes for what I had done to her with my words. Paul wrote:
“But now I am happy—not because I made you sad, but because your sadness made you change your ways. That sadness was used by God, and so we caused you no harm. For the sadness that is used by God brings a change of heart that leads to salvation—and there is no regret in that! But sadness that is merely human causes death.” (2 Corinthians 7:9-10 GNB)
Godly sorrow is a good thing. Paul has some hard things to say to the Corinthian church in his first letter, but because he spoke in the Spirit, it brought about a godly sorrow that led to their change of heart.
So what does it mean to speak words of correction under the influence of God? Paul wrote:
My friends, if someone is caught in any kind of wrongdoing, those of you who are spiritual should set him right; but you must do it in a gentle way. And keep an eye on yourselves, so that you will not be tempted, too. Help carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will obey the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-2 GNB)
There are four requirements here to set someone on the right course:
- We must be in the Spirit and led of the Spirit in what we are saying.
- We must do it with all gentleness.
- We need to search our own hearts and ask, “Am I correcting this person for their good or just so I can feel superior to them?”
- Finally, we are to help carry our brother’s and sister’s burdens. Some of them still have things to overcome (God knows we all do), but it might not be God’s timing for us to step in and “adjust” them, especially if we are doing it so we can feel more comfortable being around them. If we are really spiritual, God’s love in us should empower us to not be so hasty. “Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud; love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs;” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5 GNB)
I thanked this dear saint for calling me on my error. I had not been moved by the Spirit, but by pride in what I said. At first she didn’t want to say anything, just take it. The problem is that if we do not bring it to the Lord’s light when people wrong us, they are apt to do it again and make the rift between the two of us that much worse. If we are moved by the Spirit and are operating in His love, we can show another their error even when they are offending us. This too will be to their edification in the Spirit as the Lord empowers them to change.
We who are strong in the faith ought to help the weak to carry their burdens. We should not please ourselves. Instead, we should all please other believers for their own good, in order to build them up in the faith. For Christ did not please himself. Instead, as the scripture says, “The insults which are hurled at you have fallen on me.” (Romans 15:1-3 GNB)
God puts a high premium on unity and edification in the body of Christ. Let us always try to be motivated by God’s love and pray first to get God’s leading before we start correcting one of his precious ones. Let us build up others and provide what is needed, so that what you we say will do good to those who hear us.
Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, putting away falsehood, let every one speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. (Ephesians 4:22-27 RSVA)
By the way, this sister and I both were blessed by the way that God led us to overcome in this situation and His love still binds us together in Christ as members one of another.