Without a doubt, we are affected by our surroundings. The Apostle Peter reminds us of an Old Testament character: Lot. Genesis 13 and 19 gives us a sad picture of the effect Lot's surroundings had on him - and his family. His choice to move to the well-watered plains of Jordan, eventually found him right in the middle of the wicked city of Sodom - a city so wicked that God obliterated the entire metropolis as well as its neighbour, Gomorrah, with fire and brimstone from heaven.
Sodom's environment affected Lot. As he lived and worked surrounded by an immoral culture, the Bible tells us that he was...
...vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: For that righteous man dwelling among [the Sodomites], in seeing and hearing,
vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds. 2 Peter 2:7-8
His righteous soul was vexed (plagued, tormented, harassed and afflicted) by the day-by-day contact with the immoral behaviour around him. Both what he saw and what he heard plagued his soul.
Doesn't this describe the way we feel today? This is exactly how these young women were feeling as they shared their struggles and received support from one another. While we talked, I thought once again of the instructions Paul wrote to Titus. This one had to do with his speech. Titus was to make sure he had...
Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you. Titus 2:8
Sound speech. Wholesome. Healthy. Undecayed. Speech that cannot be condemned.
Why? So that... he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.
Philippians 2:14-15 gives us another point to consider about our speech.
Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Philippians 2:14-15
Do all things without complaining. (I think this has been a tough one in my part of the world with our winter dragging on much too long for our liking!) I cannot for a minute say that I don't complain and if you listen to those around you, doesn't everyone? This doesn't give us licence however to do the same, because Scripture clearly states the opposite. But that's exactly it. Since everyone complains, this verse says we will shine as lights when we don't! Obviously we will be different!
And notice once again, that we will be without rebuke. The same can be said as written by Peter, he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.
Our speech speaks for us.
So did the speech of our Lord.
When officers were sent to arrest the Lord Jesus, they returned empty handed. Their only explanation was...
Never man spake like this man. John 7:46
1 Peter 2:22 also says of the Lord Jesus...
Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth.
Sound speech. Our Lord Jesus was the perfect example of this. And everyone noticed.
And all bare him witness, and wondered at the
gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth.
And they said, Is not this Joseph's son? Luke 4:22
And they will notice you and I as well.
Many, like these young women, have no choice as to the environment in which they move. It's tough and it vexes their souls. Young Titus obviously had to deal with similar circumstances; Paul wouldn't have encouraged him in the way he had if the "contrary ones" did not exist. Once again we see that God's Word is timeless. What was written 2000 years ago for Titus is still needed as exhortation and encouragement for us today.
How can we live and work in this crooked, perverse, and contrary world? How can we shine as lights?
One way, among others, is to use sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you. Remember, however, our speech starts in the heart, for...out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Matthew 12:34
What's inside will come out. It's a heart issue. Our behaviour always is.
May this be our heart's desire and prayer for ourselves and for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ,
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14