“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 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. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 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, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:25-32
While researching a historical project, I recently came across several U.S. war bond advertisements from the1940s. Sponsored by local businesses, they ranged from silly to sweet and somber to slightly aggressive. As you might expect, they all solicited investments. But I was surprised to find that some of the broader messages they contain mirror what we read in today’s passage from Ephesians: “Give no opportunity to the devil… let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths… let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice” (verses 17, 29, and 31).
One of the most striking ads from the World War II era features a drawing of a woman’s profile with the headline “Saboteur? Who me? Yes, lady, it’s you!” Like I said, slightly aggressive. And yet, it is also pertinent and convicting, as the text goes on to say: “Remember, how you talked about your neighbors down the street, who go to a different church? Remember those thoughtless remarks you made about folks whose skin was a different color, or whose names were hard to pronounce… You are doing the thing our enemies want most for you to do.” Other ads echo that same theme, warning readers about “rumor bullets” that create disunity and entreating them not to play the enemy’s game.
Whoever wrote these ads was clearly fired up. They were also right. The enemy has always seized upon any opportunity to sow seeds of discord and division, just as he does now. Words are powerful. They can be tools that build or weapons that destroy. They can encourage those around us or tear them down. They can advance the kingdom of God or undermine it.
It has been almost 80 years since those ads were published, and yet they are still applicable today. Our society is extremely focused on the differences between us – race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation. Even within the church, we see divisions between denominations. We forget that all of us share one Creator, one Savior, one path to eternal life. When we speak, let it be “only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (v. 29).
Reflect and Respond:
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14). Take a few moments and ask God to place his thoughts in your heart and his words on your tongue. We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
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