“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:31, 32).

Tongue problems are not new in God’s family! That is evident in the context of the above scripture. These people, converted from an idolatrous lifestyle, did not “learn Christ this way” (Ephesians 4:20). They deceived, they acted in anger, they stole, they used words to tear down people, and they grieved God’s Spirit. Their sense of spiritual community was grossly immature! To address their problem, Paul suggested that they allow God’s forgiveness in Christ to be their model. Tongue problems are ancient, and (sorrowfully) each generation renews them by adding new vigor to them.

Consider a prayer:

God, grant us, as a community and as individuals, spiritual maturity’s courage to see and take responsibility for our tongue problems. May we refuse as individuals to allow our personal anxieties to infect the community of believers, and may we not as a community of believers encourage the abusive use of the tongue. May we be forgiving instead of bitter. May we be encouragers instead of being wrath-filled Christians. May confusion diminish because of the way we speak and our words. May we be quick to extol good and slow to destroy reputations. Instead of acting in the hate and spite of malice, give us faith’s courage to understand that evil is destroyed by doing good.

May we be as kind to each other as You are to us in Your perfect knowledge of us. May we be as tender-hearted to each other in our community as we are to one rising from baptism. May Your forgiveness be our model to forgive.

May we have faith’s courage to expect more of self because we know You. May others be attracted to Your community because our words evidence Your wisdom. Because of our words, attitudes, and emotions, may those who do not believe in Jesus not dismiss Your love. May our mouths and the actions our words produce advertise Your greatness. May our words make it obvious You live in us. May the way we treat each other declare the value of Your living in a person. May we understand the privilege of approaching You through Your son as we understand the privilege of being Your child.

Congregations too often are more discredited by Christians’ treatment of each other than by beliefs. May that awareness make each of us fear self. May we be quick to repent, and slow at self-justification. May we feel sorrow rapidly, and feel resentment slowly. May we not say things about each other that we would not repeat to God—for we shall!

May we each aspire to spiritual maturity in Jesus Christ. May we have the courage to be an example that challenges and encourages. May a godless society’s regulations never be the rules of godly spirituality. May God’s people find the direction in Jesus Christ to transform our world instead of letting the world reduce us to its level. May God in Jesus Christ form our holy manners. May the Savior teach us how to behave with the courage that transforms the immature and challenges the unformed in Christ to rise to God’s standards as His people. May our manners in our words be in His hands alone!

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 14 February 2008

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