[Abba Megethius] also said, ‘Originally, when we met together we spoke of edifying things, encouraging one another and we were “like the angels”; we ascended up to the heavens. But now when we come together, we only drag one another down by gossiping, and so we go down to hell.”
I have, for some time – and quite unsuccessfully – been reading through a copy of The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, a collection of the legends about and teachings of the ancient Abbas and Ammas, hermits and monks from the early centuries of the Christian church. Many of the stories are edifying, many are downright weird, and all give me something to chew over.
The story above is one bit from what I read today, and it seems to particularly speak to my heart this weekend.
This week I began an INSPIRE network accountability group with a couple other young, mission-minded clergy (if interested, contact me). Using the “Way of Life” as our guide, we intend to gather regularly to share with one another about our life in Christ and our spiritual growth, encouraging and challenging one another. I’m hopeful for the group, and look forward to how we can motivate one another to better follow Christ.
So seldom in regular conversation do we have the opportunity to talk of deep things; the matters of one’s spirit. We linger over vocation or church-life, but rarely if ever inquire or hold one another accountable for our spiritual walk. We ask about worship attendance, but don’t go deeply into how we balance piety and mercy. We talk about how our families are, but tread lightly or not at all around one’s relationship with Christ.
I don’t think our talk is “unwholesome,” so to speak, but I think our lack of depth and tendency toward the trivial misses an important exhortation from the Apostle Paul:
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29)
I am grateful and excited to be among a small group of peers whose intention is to speak of “edifying things, encouraging one another” that we may serve in some small way as assistants to the work Christ is doing within and among us. I pray that we may not succumb to the temptation to gossip or trivial talk.
Even without such a group, I would hope that as a Christian my talk would be in the direction of that which is wholesome, speech that coincides with the work of God to build others up, words that are helpful to others.
How do we seek to speak well?
I don’t remember where I first heard it, but I was reminded this week of a suggestion for sharing one’s thoughts or opinion. Before saying anything, check to see that what you have to say fulfills at least two of the following:
- Is it true?
- Is it kind?
- Is it necessary?
If what you have to say doesn’t meet at least two of the three, perhaps it is best left unsaid. That’s not a bad rule of thumb.
May the Lord inspire us all, that we may use our speech well, building each other up until we are more like Christ.