Tuesday, April 21, 2009

God’s Construction Workers

Do you know someone who’s constantly tearing others down? You’re almost afraid to see them for fear of who they’re going to talk about next, and what they’ll say about them.

Or maybe you haven’t noticed it about yourself, that when you’re talking about other people that you’re tearing them down. You think that you’re simply speaking the truth; you’re not saying anything bad because it’s true. You won’t say these things to the person you’re talking about, of course, but without any inhibition will spread the info far and wide to any who will hear.

Paul has some guidance about what comes out of our Christian mouths: “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 ESV) Similarly, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV)

Instead of tearing others down, what are we to do? We are to build them up. The question isn’t just, Is what I am saying about the person true? It’s also, Is what I’m saying about the person going to build him up or tear him down?

The Eighth Commandment takes a lot of abuse among Christians. “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” What does this mean? It means, as the apostle Paul makes clear in Ephesians and 1 Thessalonians, that we are to speak of others in such a way that is truly loving toward them. This includes speaking truthfully of them but also in a way that is beneficial to them and that won’t harm their reputation.

The Eighth Commandment teaches us to speak about others in this way: to “explain everything in the kindest way,” or as the old version of the Catechism says it: “put the best construction on everything.” We are God’s construction workers. We use our words to build others up, not tear them down. Putting the best construction on everything doesn’t mean we lie. It means that when we speak about others we don’t assume the worst but rather the best. It also means that we not only speak the truth but we do it in a way that is beneficial.

Maybe the question we should ask ourselves before speaking about others should be: “Would I want others to speak this way about me?” Jesus Christ spoke about others while hanging on the cross. He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” This is how He speaks about us, and by His grace we may speak in the same loving way about others.

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