Blog 14, Forgiveness Series 5: 060514; TALKING MEAN TO PEOPLE; especially MY people.
25 Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,”[a] for we are members of one another. 26 “Be angry, and do not sin”:[b] do not let the sun go down on your wrath, 27 nor give place to the devil. . . . 29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:25-27, 29-32. NKJV
I was raised in a family that did a lot of talking. It was the kind of family where everybody talked, mostly all the time, often all at the same time. If somebody wasn’t talking, they were either sick, or sad, or mad, or all three. We used a lot of ‘sarcastic’ expressions, such as, (when we’d see a man with skinny legs wearing shorts), “Are those your legs, or is that a chicken you’re riding?” Or when someone was talking much too loud for the space and the occasion, “‘Scuse me, but could you speak up a little, we can’t hardly hear you.” You know, sarcasm is the art of telling someone to go to hell in such a way that they don’t get it until 30 minutes after you’re gone. ‘Course everyone in the family, at least most of the men and some of the women, would say such things (some of which were truly cutting and hurtful to the victim) and then when they were sure that they had truly damaged the other’s feelings, would say, “I’m sorry; I was only kidding.” I can still remember times in my childhood when my Daddy or my uncles would make fun of me (or someone in my presence) for various reasons, too smart, too dumb, too scrawny, too weak, or whatever came to their minds at the time; and then laugh when it was clear they had really struck a chord.
As a result of my early introduction to talking loud, arguing a lot, being sarcastic, being talked down to, ridiculed and belittled by my elders and my superiors in my family, and following their lead by talking down to, ridiculing and belittling others who were younger, littler and weaker, I am now aware of what a great wrong I have done to many people, especially those in my immediate family, my first wife and my second wife, and all four of my children. (I’ve occasionally used such tactics on people outside my family, but those occasions have been few and far between. I was probably subconsciously scared they would whip my rear if I talked like that to them.)
I cannot imagine (or only to a small degree) all the times and all the ways I have been disrespectful, discouraging, ungracious and spoken with “bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, evil speaking, and malice”. The verse doesn’t say cursing, but that too. I owe people, especially my family, a thousand apologies for all those times. Mea culpa. I’m guilty. I deserve to be punished over and over. Probably the thing I most regret is when I use my breadth of language, volume and forcefulness, to drive home my points and verbally demolish the person with whom I argued. When my oldest son Sam was about 16 we owned a Chevy Suburban that had a removable rear bench seat. When we weren’t using it, we kept it stored in the garage. One day we were going on a trip and we were taking several other people with us and we needed the seat to be installed in the car. At the time Sam was almost as big as I was, maybe 5’10’ and 160 lbs, and I had no doubt that he could handle it by himself; so I told him to go get the seat and put it in the car. Sometime later I walked by the garage and saw it still sitting there, pretty as you please, right where it had been stored for months. I was hot. I called Sam out to the driveway, pointed to the seat in the garage, and asked him what the deal was. “Why didn’t you put the seat in the car like I told you to?” He said, “I can’t do it.” I said, “What do you mean you can’t do it?” He said, “It’s too big and heavy; I can’t lift it.” Well! I walked straight to the seat, put one hand on the back of the seat, one hand on the bottom of the seat, picked it up, walked over to Sam, and said, (almost at the top of my lungs) “Take the seat and put it in the car like I told you!”. He just stood there. Didn’t even attempt to take it. So I got closer and said, “Take the seat!” He backed away. I tried again and he backed away again. I was fit to be tied. I can only imagine how crazy and stupid I must have looked, chasing my own son around the yard trying to make him take the seat, with my wife following me saying, “Stop! Stop!” I’m sure I never apologized to Sam for that scene. If I’d had any sense, I would have offered to help him do it in the first place. How can I forgive myself, much less how can Sam forgive me? It’s those kind of stupid things we get ourselves into when we forget (or REFUSE) to be kind, tenderhearted and forgiving, as God, for Christ’s sake, is to us. Sometimes I can hardly stand to think about all the stuff I’ve put my family through. But I’ll say again, “Jesus died on the cross so I, even I, can have forgiveness for all the stupid, evil things I’ve done.” In faith, by faith in Jesus, I trust that He has, He is and He will continue to forgive me, as I confess (recognize) my sins and with His help repent and turn from them. That just has to be part of what it means to be delivered from evil. And He has done it in spite of everything I and the devil could do to the contrary. Our God is an awesome God!
So what happens when we say mean things? People get hurt. The Holy Spirit is grieved. Damage is done. What can we do to fix it? I mean, besides being obedient to DO what it says in the Bible in Ephesians 4:25-32, about saying nice things and being kind and tenderhearted and forgiving, like God is to us; WHAT CAN WE DO? In James 5:16, he says, “Confess your [sins] to one another, and pray for each other, that you may be healed.” And 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” All I can do is trust that since He gave us His own Son, that He can and will freely give us all things, like it says in Romans, 8:32, even this. My whole life is resting on the idea that God will do what He says, whether I’m able to everything I’m supposed to or not. THAT is one of the miracles of a relationship with the One True God.