Ephesians 4:29 – Let no evil talk come out of your mouths but only what is good for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.
Edification is not a word I spoke or perhaps even knew before I married my Bill. I did not understand its meaning or how powerful its use could be. Bill knew, though. He and his friends used the word every time they were together, and I began to realize what they were talking about. To edify someone is to build him up rather than tear him down. Words and actions were meant to come from your heart, from a place of gentleness and grace. Edification is an enemy to gossip, boasts, hurtful speech and making fun of others.
That’s not how my friends related to one another. My friends were quick to judge and sharp-tongued. Arguments were common; sarcasm was viewed as wittiness. Putting one another down was received with laughter. I wasn’t always comfortable with the language or the actions, and I usually felt there was a better way of being a friend. I just didn’t have a word for what was missing.
Bill’s friends were different. They were teaching one another how to love – sometimes through example and sometimes through naming the practice. Whether they were discussing friendships, marriages, children, coworkers, siblings… edifying was their way of life. These friends of his were on to something, and I wanted in.
I knew I liked Bill – who doesn’t? The difference was that I liked who I was around Bill. That was new. He was kind and gentle, soft spoken and attentive. I learned that we don’t have to agree on everything, but we do have to respect one another. He was truthful, honest and – most of all – edifying. He edified me constantly, and I began to learn how to edify others. If we argued (which we did; we are human after all), Bill never showed his frustration in public. Those moments were left in private, and Bill only spoke kindly in front of others. I wasn’t used to that; I was used to my friends airing out their disagreements for everyone to hear. Even when he was angry with me, Bill was edifying.
When I read from Paul’s letter to the people in Ephesus, I am often reminded of those early learning days with my Bill. “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths but only what is good for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.” Good for building up, Paul says. Some translations actually say good for edification, and one scripture version breaks the phrase down more simply: say only what helps. Perhaps one of the more charming biblical descriptions is this: let your words become beautiful gifts that encourage others. Yep, that sounds like Bill.
We are nearly 30 years into this marriage, and much has changed. Bill is no longer soft spoken or painfully shy (he may have picked up some things from me), but one thing remains consistent in his living example: edification is a wonderful way of living.
May this Lenten season of reflection bring to me a sense of all that is right and good, and may I remember to edify others all along the way.
Grace and peace,
PRAYER FROM EPHESIANS 4
Gracious God, thank you for such solid teaching and example as you provided in your Son, Jesus. May I lead a life of edification as he did. With your help, may I grow into my calling from you, and may my days be filled with humbleness, gentleness, patience and love. Amen.