August 22, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Ephesians 4:29-30 (NRSV)
Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption.
The Holy Spirit makes the church happen. The Spirit joins us together in the body of Christ. The Spirit helps us to be unified as the people of God. Thus, when we use our words to hurt our sisters and brothers, the Spirit is grieved. What we say matters to God. We can speak in a way that glorifies God. Or we can speak in a way that grieves God’s own Spirit.
In last Thursday’s devotion, we saw that our words can grieve the Holy Spirit. On Friday we discovered one reason for this surprising truth. Since we have been sealed by the Spirit for the day of redemption, the Spirit grieves when our words contradict who we will be on that wonderful day.
Today, I want to suggest another reason why our words matter so much to the Holy Spirit. Ephesians teaches us that through Christ all Christians have access to the Father “in one Spirit” (Ephesians 2:18). As God’s people, we are becoming a dwelling for God, who lives in us through the Spirit (2:22). Thus, we are to make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit. . .” (4:3-4). Elsewhere in Paul’s writings, the Holy Spirit gathers believers together into the body of Christ, empowering each one to contribute to the unity and growth of the body (see 1 Corinthians 12). The Holy Spirit is in the body of Christ business. The Holy Spirit is at work forming, building, shaping, unifying, and empowering the church.
Thus, if we say and do things that injure the body of Christ, the Spirit is grieved, not only because what we’re doing is sinful, but also because it opposes a central work of the Spirit. If we use language that hurts a brother or sister in Christ, we’re failing to seek the unity of the Spirit and are contributing to disunity. Therefore God’s Spirit grieves.
I can begin to understand the response of the Spirit when I remember my own experience as a pastor. For sixteen years I sought to help Irvine Presbyterian Church grow in unity, strength, and size as a part of Christ’s body. When members of my congregation joined me in this effort, I felt grateful and encouraged. But when people did things to injure our unity and hamper our growth in Christ, I felt grieved. Most of the time, the injuring and hampering were verbal. When people used their words to gossip, to criticize, to put down, and to hurt others, I felt a deep sadness, both because of the harm done to people I loved and because of the damage done to the church. Thus, it’s not difficult for me to conclude that, even as I felt sad, the Spirit of God was grieved, and in a way that I can only begin to imagine. (I don’t mean to equate my feelings with that of God’s Spirit. But, as people created in God’s image, we can get a glimpse of God by reflecting on ourselves.)
I’ve been focusing on the power of words to grieve the Spirit because that’s the chief point of our passage. Tomorrow, though, I’ll consider the potential for our words to give delight to the Lord. For now, though, please consider the following questions.
Have you experienced the power of words to hurt the body of Christ?
Have you ever been a recipient of such words?
Have you ever been the one who spoke them?
How might this passage from Ephesians affect the ways you speak when you’re gathered with your church?
Thinking specifically about your church, consider how you might use words to build up the body of Christ. Ask the Lord for wisdom and guidance. Then, when you are able, act on what you have envisioned.
Gracious God, again I thank you for entrusting the power of words to me. What an honor! Help me to use this power for good, for blessing others, and for building up your body. When I am tempted to use words to hurt others, may your Spirit convict me before I speak. Even this day, Lord, may I have the chance to build up others and to strengthen your church through my words. Amen.
Sign up to receive a Life for Leaders devotional each day in your inbox. It’s free to subscribe and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Spiritual Gifts in Community (1 Corinthians 12:1–14:40)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.