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Gracious Words Amid Sword Thrusts

We’ve probably all heard the phrase, “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me!” While there is a healthy bit of defiance in this statement, we know deep down that this is simply not true. In fact, the writer of Proverbs would strongly disagree with this phrase when he says:

“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts.” (Proverbs 12:18a)

No doubt if you took some time to do it (and I don’t recommend it) you could probably come up with some moments in your past when you received such “sword thrusts.” I still remember Susan in line at school calling me “big ears” and an authority figure declaring when I failed at a task, “I knew you would do that.” Sword thrusts! By the way, Susan apologized to me later! If we are honest we must acknowledge that at times we have delivered a few “sword thrusts” for which we have hopefully repented.

The swords have been out since the beginning of March when talk of “pandemic” proportion illness entered our lives. There has been a lot of harsh communication. Seemingly endless press conferences, 24 hour news reporting, political posturing, and social media posting take on the feel of a never ending din. Much of this is filled with “sword thrusting!”

Beloved, let this not be said of us. As ambassadors of the Kingdom of a Resurrected Savior, we have an opportunity to use our once unclean lips, now made clean, for the proclamation of a Resurrected Savior! Paul writing to the citizens of this Kingdom had this to say,

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.” (Philippians 2:14–16)

These are Gospel Imperatives

Do all things without grumbling or disputing. This is reminiscent of the people of Israel wandering in the wilderness. Grumbling and disputing are not Gospel-oriented. In fact, this “doing all things” probably relates to the “working out your own salvation with fear and trembling” seen in the prior paragraph (vv. 12-13). Our current situation may tempt us to grumble and dispute like the tribes of Israel in the wilderness. But grumbling and disputing know nothing of the fear and trembling that should be present in our “do[ing] all things…” Grumbling and disputing are signs of dissatisfaction in God and an arrogance that says, “I know better than God.” In fact, such arrogance is an echo of the hiss of the serpent in the garden. Fear and trembling, on the other hand, are signs of humility and seriousness with our tongues. These tongues, given to us by the Holy, Holy, Holy God of Isaiah 6 require God’s forgiveness and grace so that we can shine as lights in the world. He has so we can!

This fallen, often war- and plague-stricken world is a dark place. When Paul calls us to shine as lights, we are called to be bearing witness of the One who is the light of the world, Jesus Christ (John 1:5; 8:12). We too, shine as lights if we are not grumbling or disputing.

Paul tells us to “hold fast to the word of life.” This sufficient Word has much to say about how to use our renewed tongues for our assignment to be shining lights in this midst of the darkness of a twisted generation. For instance, Paul, writing to the believers (people with these renewed tongues) living under the dark shadow of the Temple of Artemis, gives instruction on how we are to speak:

“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4:15–16)

Yes, we can discuss the merits of consequential decisions and what’s happening in the world around us, but we must do it in love. This also means the topic of our discussions has a higher truth purpose—to point to a far greater hope than wise decisions and hopeful statistics.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)

Paul calls us to consider our words. So, before you hit “post” or share that catchy meme, do your words (or borrowed words) reflect sword thrusts? Grumbling and disputing? Corruption?  Or a love for others? Are your words a gracious gift that land pleasantly on the one listening—winsomely directing their attention to the Light of the World?


This blog was originally posted at Slice of Grace, view the original post here.

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Jim Koerber
Jim Koerber is an elder at Grace Covenant Church in Beavercreek, OH and a Fellow with ACBC. He frequently teaches and lectures on biblical counseling at churches, conferences, and training organizations.
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