Summary: It's easy to cut people down. God wants us to build people up.
Thursday: Ephesians 5:15-20: Be very careful, then, how you live —not as unwise but as wise…Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This morning, we are especially focusing on the phrase "Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs." How do you speak, how do you talk, to the people God has placed into your life? "Let us not give up meeting together, the Bible says… but let us encourage one another." Why is this so hard to do? God wants me to say things to people that help them, encourage them. God wants me to say things that line up with the psalms and hymns and spiritual songs that we often sing. Just a few verses before this section of the Bible, God says this, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."
Why is this so hard for us to do? I think it's safe to say that this kind of talk doesn't come naturally to most of us. There are about 400 people in this building - students, faculty, staff. 400 sinful natures. And you have one too. And that sinful nature inside of us makes us often times talk to each other in a way that should not be.
Rather than building others up, we fall into the temptation of tearing others down. Isn't it easy to find the faults of the people you go to school with? You're stuck in the same building with each other for a long time, and so there's plenty of time to find the faults of the people around you. That person over there is dumb. That person over there dresses in a weird way. That person over there thinks he's better than everybody else. That person over there is more sinful than I am. Our sinful nature judges all the people we go to school with. And so we develop our cliques, we make fun of each other behind each other's backs. Sometimes we're even bold enough to rip on someone to his or her face - we just flat out tell someone "I hate you."
We try to hide the way we talk because we don't want to get caught. But we can't hide anything from God. He knows how we think, and he knows how we talk. The only thing appropriate that should come out of our mouths when we realize that God has heard every unkind word we have ever spoken is this word - "forgive." Forgive me Lord, for anything that has come out of my mouth that made someone else feel bad. Forgive me Lord, for all the ways I've torn down other people, instead of built people up. Forgive me.
Aren't you glad that God doesn't rip on us? Just think of all the faults that God could point about you. But he doesn't do that. Instead, God looks down from heaven, and he loves us, and he forgives us. He ignores our faults, he doesn't see our faults, because Jesus has taken away all of our faults, all of our sins, by his death on the cross. The many hundreds of faults that you have - God doesn't see them - because all of them have been forgiven. God is so loving and merciful that he sees you as someone who pure and holy and perfect - made that way by the blood of his Son, Jesus Christ.
God wants you and me to look at each other the same way. Forgive the faults of the people you go to school with? Ignore them. Look past them. Why? Because this is how God treats you. Don't focus on all the little things about someone that you could make fun of - push those things out of your mind. Why? Because that's how God deals with you. As the Bible says, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."
Let's fight, and defeat, the all-to-common temptation to cut people down. Instead, let's use the words that God has given to us to encourage each other. What does that look like? It could be something as simple as thanking someone who helped you on an assignment. Or the teacher calls on you in class, and you have no idea what the answer is. Someone else bails you out - and so, you thank that person. That's encouragement. To compliment someone. And not only that. Think of the people you know that are hurting or struggling. What do you say to them? "Speak to one another, with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs." This is one of the reasons you take religion classes, so that you can know what to say to people who need help, the God has placed into your life. Let's be careful how we live. Not as unwise, but as wise. Let's honor the God who forgives us by being careful in the way we treat each other.