Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29 (NASB)
There’s an old song that goes something like this: “They will know we are Christians, by our love, by our love, they will know we are Christians by our love.”
I’d say it’s more like they’ll know we are Christians by the meticulous choice of words we use, and by the words we choose not to use.
A believer controlled by the Spirit is constantly aware of the power of words. Following the instructions in this verse, every word is voted on before it leaves the gate. The deciding factors are always whether it’s the truth, it’s good (not “rotten” as the Greek indicates), it will edify, it’s needful for the moment, and it will dispense grace to those who hear. This may seem a painstaking process, but not for the Spirit who is able to make these decisions on the fly.
The very first sign of the Spirit’s control of a person is the tongue. What was loose and profane—wild—becomes obviously tame, civil and gracious. I’ve seen this time and again, and it’s nothing short of miraculous for those previously known for their salty language and caustic tone.
But if one professes to be a Christian and his or her speech does not show any signs of such control, it forces fellow believers to wonder and question about the authenticity of that person’s faith. Certainly the body of Christ is not benefiting from what that person says. Worse though, the world sees nothing different in a person proclaiming to be a Christian, and the foundation of his or her testimony, and ours for that matter, has been lost.
May it never be, as Paul was prone to say, that the world will rule out the possibility that our random acts of kindness are motivated by Christ when we open our mouths.