James 3 tells us that the tongue can be a wicked little thing, "set on fire by hell" and "full of deadly poison." But Ephesians 4 points out the good news too, that our talk can build others up and "give grace to those who hear."
As the clock counts down to 2014, here are 5 things you can say more in the New Year that will sound like an Ephesians 4 tongue instead of a James 3 one.
1. "I love you."
The big-budget romantic comedy has built these three little words into a life-changing climax they shouldn't be. "I love you" was meant for so much more than sunset strolls on the Brooklyn Bridge or flashing on the Jumbotron at the Super Bowl.
Jesus was clear about us loving one another, and a handy way of doing that is to tell each other. Why should the most efficient way of expressing it – subject-verb-direct object – be off-limits to all but the most "serious" of romantic partners?
Given our culture's wiring, I strongly urge wisdom and care before deploying the three words. I understand the hazards of youth pastors texting his students "I love you," or using it to close a Powerpoint presentation for your fellow Christian and boss.
Common sense!! But know that saying "I love you" to the right person who will take it the right way, like a close friend or an in-law, can make wider the way for the love of God to flow.
2. "Can I quickly pray for you?"
It's happened countless times: Someone shares a struggle with me, and I say I'll keep them in prayer. But as my daily routine goes on, I forget to.
Instead of promising prayer that may not happen, I've started to just pull the person aside and go to God together, right there. The act ensures that I bring it to God at least once and firmly places the need in my mind to remember to pray on my own.
3. "Can I tell you about something I'm going through?"
The flip side of #2 is sharing your own struggle or sin, which is a really good idea according to James 5:16 (ESV): "Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed."
4. "You're really good at [...]."
It's nice to hear that you're smart or special in God's eyes. Really, it's a sweet gesture. But to praise someone on what they do – the work they've poured their time and energy into – instead of just who they are, invokes a different kind of encouragement.
If I'm struggling with my confidence as a writer and someone tells me I'm fearfully and wonderfully made by the Father, I'd thank them for the nice reminder, but it probably won't spur me on to sit down at a keyboard again. However, if a colleague points out the value in my talent and work, that will encourage me to press on with the work God's given me.
When someone is angry or hurting, they might just need to talk about how they feel. They may not be asking for advice or announcing their search for a Savior. And the best thing for you to do at the moment is to just listen.
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Please SHARE if this encouraged you for the New Year!