If you don't have anything nice to say...

Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.  – James 5:9

The world loves to complain about the Church. There's an abundance of negative words from non-Christians aimed at our beliefs, our moral values, how we talk, and how we live. Such negative speech and attacks can be discouraging. How much more so when they come from within the Church! We who are supposed to be united in Christ are sometimes just as guilty of complaining against His Bride. Nothing destroys unity more quickly than complaining against those with whom we are supposed to be united.

James has gone to great lengths to describe the power of words whether for good or for evil throughout his letter (James 1:26; 3:5-8). In the last chapter, this concluding verse would bring to mind stories of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness after the Exodus from Egypt. The Israelites grumbled and complained many times against Moses and against God and were judged as a result, often with severe punishments (Numbers 11:1). James warns of the same kind of judgment befalling Christians who “grumble against one another.” He knows how poisonous and destructive our words can be, and “the Judge is standing at the door,” listening to every word we say. 

The movie “Fireproof” is about a marriage on the brink of divorce and how the husband takes a challenge from a friend in order to heal and strengthen his marriage - to “fireproof” it. One day, his challenge is to not say anything negative to his spouse. No complaints, no criticisms, no accusations, no sarcastic remarks, no insults, nothing negative at all. And if he can’t think of anything positive to say, he must remain silent. He was immediately put to the test when his wife (unaware of the challenge) levelled several accusations and complaints at him that very morning. The husband writhed, fuming in his mind at his wife’s words and turning his face red from biting his tongue so hard to keep silent. He was so used to dishing out negative speech that it took great effort on his part to stop. However, he was successful, and one significant step closer to healing his marriage. This is exactly the kind of challenge James requires for the Church! 

Complaining and grumbling against the Church from within is a poor witness to the world and it damages our brothers and sisters in Christ. It contradicts Christ’s words when he said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Complaining is neither a gift nor fruit of the Holy Spirit. Rather, it directly characterizes Satan, who is called “the Accuser of the brethren” (Revelation 12:10). He seeks to steal, kill, and destroy the Church and accusing God’s people is his primary weapon. Let’s not help him!

If Christ is working to make His Bride spotless, let’s not drag her through the mud with our words. May we, the Church, repent of our negative speech. 

Heavenly Father, forgive me for where I have spoken negatively about Your Church and my brothers and sisters in Christ. Search my heart and reveal to me any way in which I need to repent of careless words spoken against Your Bride. Guard my lips from speaking anything impure. Fill me with the Holy Spirit, that my speech may be sweet and encouraging to build up the Church. Help me to love the Church well and so prove to be Your disciple. Build up Your Church in unity for the sake of Your glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Mike Vincent
Ministry Fellow, Christian Union Nova

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