They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient, and unfit for doing anything good. Titus 1:16
My parents were strict about the way we talked about other people. No name calling or disparaging comments allowed. The cliche, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say it!” was the rule of the day.
If I walked into my next small group meeting and overheard someone say, “Frank is detestable and unfit for Christian service,” it would be a turnoff. So how is this kind of talk from Paul okay? Since all scripture is God-breathed, can name calling really be inspired by God?
‘Detestable’ was the word used in Leviticus 7 regarding those who had not kept the observances of the Torah about touching or eating unclean things. It came out of the mouth of God. But it’s one thing for God to say it as His motives and words are pure, but quite another thing for me to say it.
And isn’t Paul the very one who told us to encourage one another, and build one another up in holy faith? I Thess. 5:11 He is. Both kinds of talk are to be Spirit led. God models it for us. God is just and God is gracious. He has harsh words for the rebellious and fatherly words for His children. He is both fierce and tender. The challenge comes when God’s children use harsh words outside of prayerfulness and an examination of their own heart. Can’t you hear the sneer behind the mean name calling? I can. But in a much rarer sense, I can also hear the holy cry of a righteous man who laments the damage done through false teachers. He has discerned the heartbreak and anger of a righteous God who fiercely guards His flock.
When I use words like disgusting or detestable, what people come to mind? For what reasons? Have they personally offended me? Or am I upset because they offended God? Finally, is it possible I call them and their behavior detestable because I have the same log of offense in my own eye? People can be most offended by the sin of others that they, themselves, struggle with.
If I’m bent toward mercy, I must grow into bolder speech. If I’m bent toward justice, I must grow into more merciful speech. In either case, I must examine my heart. If I’m only merciful, I probably fear conflict and rejection. If I only want justice, I am probably reacting to past hurts where evil behavior went unpunished. I’ve never worked through it to the point of forgiveness. Either way, I am to be like Jesus, who was, and is, the exact representation of God. He is the full package and will, by the power of His Spirit, transform me into His likeness.
Show me where I need to grow. Amen