Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Doest Thou Stinketh?

Dear Friends,

Every so often I’ll get an envelope in the mail that’s the size and shape of an invitation. The only thing on the envelope, other than my name and address, are these words printed in elegant script on the lower left hand corner: 

Free Cremation Offer ~Details Inside 

I’ve never read the details. I’m always too scared to open the envelope. Why am I being offered free cremation services? I feel okay, but their offer makes me suspicious because I’ve been wrong about my health before. Do they know something about my current state of being that I’m in denial about? I’m fearful they could be right. But then again, if I really was in immediate need of their cremation services, wouldn’t a loved one be telling me that I was starting to stink?

I don’t want what I’m about to say to sound harsh, so let me put this in Biblical language. Sometimes one of the most loving things a person can do for you is to tell you when thou doest stinketh!! Because even us best church-goin’ Christians can become a little odoriferous when we’ve stepped off the path of righteousness. When we mess up and something in our life starts to stink, we may need to hear what scripture calls a “fitly spoken word.” Proverbs 25:11 

May God give each one of us a loved one – family or friend – who is bold and loving enough to let us know when the smell of sin in our life becomes noticeable and to give us an opportunity to correct it before our stench becomes intolerable. Only an emotional masochist would actually enjoy hearing criticism about themselves, but a wise man or woman welcomes a word that gives them an opportunity for a needed correction. King Solomon said it like this: “Timely advice is lovely, like golden apples in a silver basket. To one who listens, valid criticism is like a gold earring or other gold jewelry.” Proverbs 25:11-12 NLT

Solomon likens valid criticism to a precious gift but that may be a difficult gift to deliver lovingly if the sinful behavior was directed towards us or affected us personally. When that happens, we can err in one of two directions. We can lash out in judgement or anger that either immediately closes the spirit of the person we are trying to reach or our harshness can escalate the issue into a hurtful argument. “Gentle words turn away anger but our harsh words make tempers flare up.” Proverbs 15:1 We all know how much worse we make things when we confront in anger.

We can also err when we turn away, get quiet, and withdraw. Our irritation/frustration/ annoyance at the other person is carefully packed away into that secret place where we stuff our anger and hurts. Each one of us has his/her own emotional cesspool, packed full of those things we don’t want to deal with, but those repressed feelings always seem to bubble back up to the surface and become “passive-aggressive anger.” And when a resentful, negative bitterness becomes hooked into our soul, we become sickened spiritually. Bitterness leads to unforgiveness and unforgiveness leads to the diminishment or loss of the relationship.

That’s why the Apostle Paul writes that mature believers should “speak the truth in love to each other in order that they may grow in every way more and more like Christ.” Ephesians 4:15 

When a loved one’s behavior begins to stink, we need to be truthful and tell them that. And we also need to gift-wrap our words in such a loving, Christ-like manner that they receive our fitly spoken words as the precious gift that they are. When truth is told and received in love, then both giver and receiver grow in every way emotionally and spiritually. 

Let our prayer today be that our loved ones will always lovingly tell us when our behavior doest stinketh. And even when we are wounded by the truth about our behavior, let us know that “faithful are the wounds of a friend.” Proverbs 27:6 

And then when we detect the smell of sin in the lives of family and friends, Lord give us the courage, boldness and Christ-like love to speak the truth in love to them that we may both grow together to be more like Christ.  Amen?

“Speak the truth in love to each other 
in order that they may grow in every way
more and more like Christ.”

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