If we are going to live lives that look like Jesus, then we must live in such a way that it is obvious to others. It is not good enough to simply have the head knowledge or even the heart knowledge. We need to put what we know into action. While our activities will certainly go a long way towards defining who we are to others, perhaps nothing will say more about us than the words we choose to speak.
One of the most compelling verses for me in regards to my choice of words is found in Ephesians 4:29, where we read that our talk should only be in a manner that builds up someone else. Everything we say must be for the good of others. We are not to negatively criticize, gossip, or intentionally hurt another by what we say. Every time we speak, we should be speaking words of encouragement, of optimism and of love. People should feel better about themselves after speaking with us. That is what it means to build someone up. Leave them better and stronger than they were before your conversation. A little further in the chapter, in verse 31 we find instructions against being bitter and for putting aside anger, insult, slander, wrath and wickedness. I know for too many years in my life that would have left me with nothing to talk about. It can still be a struggle at times; when you are surrounded by people talking in negative terms, tearing others down, it can almost become contagious. That is why it is very important to not only guard your own speech, but also to be very careful about with whom you are choosing to associate. If you hang out with negative people who always put others down, you will find yourself leaning towards the same inclinations.
As you begin to change your patterns and habits of speech, prepare for others to take notice. Some will make fun of you and perhaps you may even lose a few friends. My experience is that most of these friends will come back over time as you continue to model a life that looks like Jesus. Most people are drawn to love and light, and as long as we are reflecting the glory of God, that is what they will see in us. Don’t worry about what others may think, simply live a life that Jesus will find pleasing. When you are criticized by others, ask yourself if you would rather behave in the manner that they do. If you wouldn’t then why would you even think of accepting their counsel as to how you should live your life? Accept instruction from wise people, those who love and fear God. Don’t get caught in the trap of emulating those who live in ways that are contrary to the mission of Christ.
As you begin to change your speech patterns to only build others up, this is the perfect time to seek out those who most need an encouraging word. Smile and speak kindly to those whom most simply ignore: for example, the cashier at the store, the janitor at your place of work, the homeless person you pass on the street. Words are free, they cost you nothing; but they can be of immense value to someone who is struggling. All of us can afford to give away the love of Jesus. His love is vast and there is plenty to go around. Develop a new habit of really seeing those you encounter throughout the day. Give them your undivided attention as you listen, look behind the stories to see their pain, and then speak an encouraging word into their lives. Be genuine, smile, and marvel at what God can do through your simple act of kindness.
Be careful of the words you say. You never know who might be listening and how they may be affected by them. Use only words of encouragement, words that will build up someone in need. Put away gossiping and insults forever; determine to only speak in positive and uplifting ways. Surround yourself with others who are also committed to building up others. As you genuinely speak love into the lives of others, you will find your own life changing in wonderful ways as you move ever closer to living a life which truly reflects that of Jesus.