As Fits the Occasion
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
As we journey through the Epistle of Ephesians, we have often met “challenges” to the way that we are exhorted to speak to one another in God’s community. Against the backdrop of church unity, we are warned in the Scriptures to be slow to speak, to guard our mouths, to put away foolish talk and crude joking, to bridle our tongues, and to give watch over our lips, the door to our mouths. It seems that one of the most significant barriers to unity among God’s people is the hurt caused by our communications with one another.
Sociologist reveal in increasing wariness the “sharpness” of our society’s dialog with one another in our day. In a generation fueled by sound clips and 140-character tweets, the harshness of communication has accelerated; not surprisingly, so has the hurt. The tide of our cultural river sweeps many in its torrent.
Paul’s words, and the eternal message of the Bible, remain of paramount importance today. Christians are not immune from the temptation to speak our mind, and sadly, often in situations wholly out of turn and without proper contextualization. In military terms, such “friendly-fire” lobs hurtful consequences upon God’s people and our demonstration of His glory among the peoples. We must be on guard; we must be faithful to the Word.
There is a phrase in v29 that I beg of your attention. That phrase, “as fits the occasion” offers guidance for the Believer in how, and significantly when, to navigate between speaking the truth in love on one occasion and holding our tongue in another. The Christian is told to demonstrate godly discernment in determining not only the timing of conversation, but also the manner. As fits.
Many pursue misplaced liberty, under the guise of Christian conviction and duty, to speak their mind in all times and in all places. Such unbridled tongues rarely edify fellow brothers or sisters. Often such self-serving talk builds friction between those who are called to be bright lights to a watching world.
Paul provides guide rails for those wishing to speak well. First, is our speaking of a holy and sanctifying nature? Some language offers nothing other than hurt, causing corruption that impedes the efficient working of the Body. That kind of talk is rightly admonished by the Apostle. Secondly, will my “truth in love” moment build up my brother, and by extension, His church? We usually know the answer and it is our duty to obey His Spirit’s leading in such occasions. Lastly, the Apostle urges, do our words show grace, and rightly point others to His grace, His atonement, His salvation?
Unity hangs in the messy divide between speaking Grace and Truth. Such tension is best labeled LOVE among the faithful. Lord, give us strength to go after such a love!