(Part 7)

September 11, 2013
Today’s readings:
Colossians 3:1-11
Psalm 145:2-3,10-11,12- 13
Luke 6:20-26

We are empowered to witness. We witness by our holy lives, and we witness by our words proclaiming the gospel. We are empowered precisely for this. In turn, it is when we do such witness that we continue to be empowered.

In looking to holiness of life, “put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry.” (Col 3:5). How indeed can we be empowered when “because of these the wrath of God is coming upon the disobedient.” (Col 3:6).

Now there should be no problem with any one of us regarding avoiding these earthly acts. But here is the problem: our tongue and our speech. These are intended to speak the gospel on behalf of Christ and to express love to brethren, but many, even Christian leaders, at times speak with “anger, fury, malice, slander, and obscene language out of (their) mouths.” (Col 3:8b). Oftentimes these are directed against brethren, within the context of the community’s work. People become judgmental. People malign others. People even spread malicious words and influence others to think negatively about those they don’t like. Paul says emphatically: “But now you must put them all away” (Col 3:8a).

As Christians, and especially Christian leaders, we should already “have taken off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator.” (Col 3:9b-10). Does the Creator-God malign others? Never! We were made in the image and likeness of God, but with sin were badly tarnished, no longer recognizable. “By these you too once conducted yourselves, when you lived in that way.” (Col 3:7). But now, having experienced transformation in Christ, we are being restored and renewed in that image. We must tame the tongue, especially as what comes out of our mouths expresses the condition of our hearts. We cannot witness effectively unless our hearts, and our mouths, are pure.

Whenever we have something negative against a brother or sister, we have ways of handling that, like dealing directly in private, like seeking dialogue, like not being judgmental, like wanting only the good of the other and not simply to have our own way, like always trying to protect relationships and the very life of the community. In order not to succumb to the ways by which the world handles disagreements, we must always look to Jesus. “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, .... Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.” (Col 3:1a,2). What would Jesus do? What would Jesus say? How would he say it? This is the only way to go, “for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col 3:3). Is Christ living in you? Then speak accordingly.
How in fact should we use our mouths?

  • Bless God. “Every day I will bless you; I will praise your name forever and ever.” (Ps 145:2). The tongue that blesses and praises God every day will not malign or curse any of God’s people.
  • Proclaim the gospel. “All your works give you thanks, Lord and your faithful bless you. They speak of the glory of your reign and tell of your mighty works, making known to the sons of men your mighty acts, the majestic glory of your rule.” (Ps 145:10-12). The tongue that is busy evangelizing and focusing on assaulting the enemy will not focus on seeming faults of brethren and certainly not assault comrades-in-arms.
  • Never forget that you are now an ambassador of Christ, a steward of his work, a witness to his very life. As “the Lord is trustworthy in all his words, and loving in all his works” (Ps 145:13), as his witnesses, so should we be. Watch your words, and be loving in all you do.

But of course there will always be those who do not watch their speech, and end up maligning or judging, and hurting their brethren. Even here the Lord has his mysterious ways. If you are the object of hurtful words, especially from brethren, consider Jesus’ words: “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way.” (Lk 6:22-23).

Just make sure that people are speaking against you not for actual wrongdoing you have committed, but with a clear conscience that your words and actions have been on account of the Son of Man, Jesus. If so, then you are blessed. You are privileged to be among the company of prophets. You are privileged to be treated in the same way Jesus was treated, even by his own relatives and his own people. Your reward is not recognition and acclaim in the here and now, but in heaven. So rejoice. Nay, leap for joy!

And now you can be assured you are witnessing to Jesus.

And you can be assured, that after a life of witnessing to Jesus, you will have your reward. “When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.” (Col 3:4).

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