As we live in a culture of disrespect, Christians have an added responsibility to give thought to how we speak to one another. Civility, courtesy, and manners were once staple subjects taught in every home, but those days are increasingly relegated to the yearbooks of nostalgia. Yet, it shouldn’t be so with God’s people. Especially if we, as we claim in our songs, sermons, and speech, love one another, that will be reflected in speaking kind words even when we feel impatience, disagreement, or aggravation toward another. This is difficult, but it is a mark of our bearing the fruit of the Spirit.
In the last several chapters of Romans, Paul reinforces this idea of loving, kind treatment of one another. He urges the church to “be devoted to one another in brotherly love” (12:10), “give preference to one another” (12:10), “be of the same mind toward one another” (12:16), “love one another” (13:8), “let us not judge one another” (14:13), “build up one another” (14:19), “be of the same mind with one another” (15:5), “accept one another” (15:7), “able to admonish one another” (15:14, but notice that this comes from those who are “full of goodness”), and “greet one another with a holy kiss” (16:16).
So how do we lift that off the page and put it into practice? Think about any and every interaction we have with other members of the Lord’s body. Give forethought to how you answer them and speak to them. Apply this to our leaders, our peers, and those who are led by our example. Do your words and attitudes help create the kind of atmosphere Paul repeatedly calls for, or do they undermine it and make it difficult. It is so easy to allow pride, selfishness, lack of self-discernment, or the like to erode the kindness from our demeanor. But now more than ever, we need to bear this distinctive mark in a world who has seemingly lost sight of it. When we treat each other the way Paul encourages, we will not only build each other up but we will draw the world to the Lord. It is the mark of true discipleship (John 13:34-35). In our busy, hectic, stressful lives, may we redouble our efforts to be ever be edifiers and never be nullifiers!