There are some voices out there today that would say that the Church as an institution is irrelevant and unbiblical. They would suggest that we no longer need buildings to gather in, leaders to teach and guide us, and gathered congregations to worship and serve. It is ironically coincidental that these “voices” typically come from disgruntled Christians who have a hard time submitting to authority and getting along with people.

You see, one of the great benefits of the gathered Church is that we are challenged to grow and mature in our character largely due to serving alongside people who have different opinions and personality. There is opportunity to grow in humility and love, with pure and sincere hearts, becoming more like Christ. A significant challenge in seeing growth is learning to control our thoughts, and our tongues.

God is incredibly concerned about what we think and say of others, and the Bible often addresses how we are to treat our fellow believers. God condemns evil speech because it has a substantial negative impact. What we think and say reveals our heart condition, and we should become alarmed if we find ourselves in a state of criticism. Such attitudes come from a position of self- righteousness; somehow thinking that we are “in” with God so therefore He would endorse our ways.

1 Peter 3:8-11 says:
“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it.”

It is easy to become hard-hearted. Still, God calls us to love each other in the Church like family. It’s time to take a heart test. Do we think highly of others or do we secretly dislike others? Do we spend our time finding faults, labeling, and blaming those around us?

God declares that this negative attitude will hinder our prayers. We may think we are speaking for God, but the truth is, He wants no part of such behavior!

Peter continues in 1 Peter 3:12, “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

God is always speaking more highly of us than we deserve. Realized or not, we often ask for mercy more than we give mercy. Peter defines “evil” in this context as one who chooses not to bless others, but to judge and criticize others in the Body of Christ. Peter knows that God condemns evil speech because of its effects on our hearts.

We are called to be blessed, and to be a blessing –  to bless and not curse. However, we cannot reap what we do not sow and we cannot draw to ourselves what we are unwilling to plant in others. Are we happy, joyful Christians – a blessing to those around us? Pay attention to the thoughts and words coming from within for they are the indicators of the condition of the heart!

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