“Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
How do we speak “grace” to one another? Paul draws a parallel, not between bad language and “clean” language, but between language that builds up and language that tears down.
There is some language that cuts like a whip. I have a book here called Acid Drops written by Kenneth Williams. Recently I came across a review by Stuart Akers which makes the point well.
“Kenneth Williams, of ‘Carry On…’ fame for many, was a troubled character. Clever but socially handicapped, he lived a mostly solitary life. It comes as no surprise, then, that his collection of witty quips and quotes is entirely made up of the sort of put-downs that leave the victim feeling bad. Of course, the title gives a clue to the nature of the assortment; his selection is pungent with acerbic witticisms.
As an optimist and, bearing a philanthropic nature, I found only a few of these short forays into wit amusing. Many are cruel. At best, most are caustic. I laugh easily; it’s in my nature. But I didn’t laugh at many of these, though I can admire the intelligence that created them. … I was overwhelmed by the nastiness of much of the material… For me, it was distinctly ugly, but clever.”
I’m sure that we all just wish that we had the perfect reply when some rude or insulting word comes our way, but if I would build up and not tear down, then it’s a “pleasure” I must forgo.
So what does “grace” look like here? It looks like gentleness. “Be gentle with one another Swallow the insult, (along with your pride). Give a gentle answer or no answer at all. Consider where that cruel word came from and refuse it entry.
And, above all “Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.”