Billy Graham's "Decision" magazine asked journalism students to re-write a simple sentence: "Jesus came into my heart and changed my life." One student wrote, "My soul was starving until I let Jesus cook the meals." Another wrote, "When I met Christ, it was as if lightning struck, knocking me conscious." And still another wrote, "My life was X-rated until Jesus took a front-row seat."
The Apostle Paul did a re-write years ago when he said becoming a Christian was like taking off old clothes and putting on new ones. He explained a Christian "puts off" the old way of life and "puts on" the new garment of salvation (Ephesians 4: 22, 24). Just as the winner puts on the green jacket at Augusta National and is recognized as a champion, so we put on the garment of salvation and are recognized as followers of Christ.
The writer further explained some of the things included in that discarded garment: simmering anger, stealing and vitriolic words.
The Bible commands us to be angry. We ought to be angry at the right things, but we're also exhorted to make an end of anger (v. 26). And stealing, he insisted, isn't God's plan. We're to work for our wages and share with others in need (v. 28).
Paul called destructive speech "corrupt communication," and insisted followers of Christ should speak words of grace (v. 29).
Corrupt communication may mean at least two things.
One is profanity. "USA Today" printed a story entitled, "Run on Cussing in New Movies." In another story they reported on "The Wolf of Wall Street" that hit a new record: 506 uses of the f-bomb. Psychologists say we grow increasingly desensitized by coarse language, and that profanity contributes to the coarseness of society and to incivility.
Billy Sunday said a man is "low down" to cuss the God who wants to keep him out of hell.
But words of grace my also mean that we refuse to use language that demeans or devalues others. Washington Irving noted, "A sharp tongue is the only edged tool that grows keener with constant use."
Sometimes we use pointed words with our children so they'll understand the consequences of their actions. And employers use pointed words when employees don't live up to their potential. But we must be careful not to demean people with hateful and destructive words.
Dr. John Howell counseled a lady who felt worthless. The most often words she heard from her father when growing up were, "You're stupid." Here's a father who needed to learn words of grace.
Jesus said, "I tell you, on the Day of Judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak" (Matthew 12:36).