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Build others up

How many conversations do you have in a day? What do you speak about? This season of the year affords many opportunities for conversation. It is the perfect time to reflect on what we speak about with others and what we say about others.

The apostle Paul lived what he commanded believers in Ephesians 4:29: “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.” The Holy Spirit breathes life into us through the gospel comfort that Jesus is our mediator with God the Father and speaks on our behalf. John tells us Jesus has atoned for us by his blood and now we have access to the Father as God’s children (1 John 2:1,2).

Conversations are coming. Use your words to build others up.

Who builds you up whenever you speak with them? Is it your grandmother, your dad, a teacher, coach, pastor, or that Christian friend who always finds the right words? It isn’t flattery. They humbly observe the good they see and tell you about it. The apostle Paul was good at this. Paul starts 12 of his 13 inspired letters overflowing with thanks or praise to God for his fellow believers, their faith, their deeds done in love, and the forgiveness they share in Jesus. Even in his letter to the Galatians where he doesn’t begin this way, he calls them “children of God through faith” in Christ Jesus (3:26). For sure, Paul also didn’t hesitate when he had to call people out on sin or false doctrine. He spoke the truth in love to lead them to repentance and back to Christ.

It’s timely to reflect and pray about the words we speak to others. Sadly, our world gives us models of conversations that are much different from what the apostle suggests. We live in a world that has grown vitriolic in its approach to anyone with an opposing point of view.

Whether they are leaders, governing officials, politicians, or coworkers, it becomes hard not to mimic this attitude and judge all people and their words and actions in the worst possible way—and say so.

With inspired words, Paul pointed out the forgiveness and relationship we share in Christ, the good God has produced in and through our fellow sinner-saints. Check out his letter to Philemon. In a difficult conflict between two believers, he addressed Onesimus as his “son” and Philemon as his “brother.” Paul meant what he said. And he knew them! He wrote why he gave thanks to God for each of them (and other men and women as well). He pointed out fruits of faith he saw overflowing in each of their lives, deeds done out of thanks for God’s great gift of forgiveness in Jesus Christ.

This Christmas and New Year’s, conversations will abound at office parties, church services, social gatherings, and family reunions. Pray and prepare for these opportunities to emulate the apostle Paul and how he used his words. Give thanks to God for the people he has placed in your life—not just family but people you work with, serve with, worship with, even those you are at odds with at times. Jesus saved you both the same way—through his cross and empty tomb.

Conversations are coming. Use your words to build others up.

Author: Nathanael Scharf
Volume 109, Number 12
Issue: December 2022

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This entry is part 12 of 36 in the series editorial-comment

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