"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 (NIV).
The other day I got so mad at my teenager that I cussed. Yikes! I'm in full-time ministry. Now, should Christians cuss? Of course not. But sadly, I did. I knew it was wrong as soon as it flew from my mouth. I repented quickly and felt awful.
If you know anything about me, I don't normally swear and would never allow it in my home. We are a godly family and we try to be imitators of Christ. But on this day, I failed miserably and had to apologize for losing my temper.
I was so sad that I'd not only disappointed my child, but my Lord. I wished I could take it back. Everything within me wants to be a person who uplifts and encourages... a man who speaks grace and love to my family.
But something was in my heart that got revealed and I'm glad it did. I needed that sin to be exposed so I could identify it and run to God for help. Thankfully, my family is forgiving and always ready to show grace when I fall.
I pondered why I couldn't be like the lyrebird. In the days when we lived in Australia, I learned about this creature.
The lyrebird gets its name because of the lovely tail of the male bird. When the tail is raised, it looks like an ancient harp called a lyre.
The song of the lyrebird is stunning too. To attract a female, the male sings a unique song of his own chirps and other bird calls he's heard. To up his game, he can even mimic sounds that humans bring into the forest—like cars, camera shutters, and even children laughing. The more sounds he can add to his repertoire, the better his chances at attracting a mate.
The amazing voice of the lyrebird reminds me of how I'm to act as a follower of Jesus. The best way to steer the world to God is to copy Christ. Pointing people to Him is one of the things He commanded us to do as His children (Matthew 28:19).
But I hear believers all the time say words that are not glorifying to God. It's not a great representation of Christ to the world.
The word "Christian" means one who follows or acts like Christ, but how often we fail to respond like Jesus would. Whether I accidentally smash my finger with a hammer or yell at my kids for making a mess, I may not cuss, but more often than not, I choose to let things fly out of my mouth that do not reflect God's kindness or patience.
Mimicking our God is what attracts people to the gospel. I want to imitate the character of Jesus so my life will be a sweet song to those in the forest of hurt and hopelessness.
There is another bird that's quite different from the lyrebird …
Before I became a missionary with Jesus Film Project®, I served as a wildlife rescue specialist, caring for owls, possums, raccoons and other small game.
Often unglamorous, I had to trudge through swamps or climb trees, wearing heavy protective gear, only to be bitten or scratched anyway. Honestly, I didn't always feel like the animal deserved rescuing by the time I was done. Like the day I met a turkey vulture with a broken wing who decided he’d be difficult.
I had chased him under three mobile homes and two cars before finally throwing a blanket over him. I wasn't informed vultures have a defense mechanism when cornered.
So, when the blanket suddenly dropped off, he opened his beak and spewed a belly full of roadkill. It covered my shirt with a putrid mess, making me gag. Once I got him safely to the rescue center, I went home for a shower.
That incident reminds me of people whose vocabulary lacks depth. They seem to vomit profanity whenever they feel threatened or frustrated. I may not cuss, but I can hurl phrases that are unpleasant or offensive when I’m not getting what I want. Often, it's toward the people I love. These words can be subtle, almost imperceptible, but they are hurtful nonetheless.
James 3:3-12 says our mouth is the hardest thing to control. The damage caused is often irreversible and can bring death to another's hopes and dreams. As God's children, the next time we feel like vultures—about to hurl rotten phrases or even putrid thoughts—let us instead be known as people who lift up and speak life.
Billy Graham once said, "A real Christian is a person who can give his pet parrot to the town gossip." Today, may we pronounce encouragement and love over everyone we meet. If you would like to know more about how to live upright and holy, check out this article.