Yesterday we learned the importance of walking carefully in love, and not conforming to the evil in this world. “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” (Eph 5:15-21)
We learned that the phrase “the days are evil” should communicate to us a sense of urgency because of evil’s pervasiveness. And we learned as God’s children we are to keep our standards high, act wisely, and do good when we can. “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.” (Col 4:5) So given who we are–Children of the Light–we are to be a light that shines in the ever-pervading worldly darkness. “So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph 5:17-18).
While I was going to move onto the next verse in this passage, I looked up other Scriptures that put the ! on this Word and found: “But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one.” (1 Cor 5:11) The Lord has really laid upon my heart that I am NOT the Holy Spirit, and I’m not to try to do His job of convicting others of their sin in order for them to repent. There are those in my life I’ve felt compelled to try to reach, even though their hearts are hardened, even to friendship much less God’s Word.
As I was looking carefully at this verse I wondered in this context what the word “reviler” means, so I looked it up. A reviler is a person who uses words to damage, control, or insult someone’s character or reputation. Today we would call a reviler a verbal abuser. Reviler is a multi-purpose word that is used in the Bible to describe all manner of verbal sin, such as slander, angry outbursts, and foul language. Reviling is usually listed with sins we would consider greater, such as homosexuality and theft (1 Cor 6:9-10; 2 Tim 3:2-3). As we saw above, Paul lists revilers among the sexually immoral and drunkards (1 Cor 5:11), and he instructs the church to have nothing to do with such people if they claim to be Christians.
Our words matter to God (Ps 19:14) because “It is…what proceeds out of the mouth, [that] defiles the man’ (Matt 15:11). We often excuse our foul speech by telling ourselves, “I’m not really like that. I just got provoked.” Jesus says we are like that: “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man” (Matt 15:18). He also says, “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Matt 12:34). Revilers are simply revealing what is in their hearts, and it is the heart that God searches and judges (Jer 17:9-10).
I thought the Lord was instructing me the other day to reach out to a couple of people to try to have peace with them. What came back from one of these people was hate-filled speech, and so that person’s heart was absolutely revealed to me. Jesus warned us against sharing holy things with those who will only use it to turn on us. “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” (Matt 7:6)
God certainly wants us to spread the gospel (Matt 28:19) and to defend the truths of His word (Rom 1:16). On the other hand, we are not obligated to waste our time trying to convince the unwilling. In fact, we are warned not to expend excessive effort on those who are clearly disinterested in any honest discussions. If that person is just arguing, being hostile, or otherwise not open, it’s probably time to move along. Some people are totally, completely, and absolutely hardened to the gospel (Prov 29:1), and they have the free will to make that choice.
When we have made a good-faith effort to talk to someone, and they are unreachable, then we are commanded: “And as for those who do not receive you, as you go out from that city, shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” (Luke 9:5) As in all things, the wisdom of God is crucial; and He has promised to impart His wisdom if we ask (James 1:5), and we should pray for it and trust God’s prompting to know how and when to break off a relationship with someone. He always wants the best for us so that we can be used for His kingdom work, and it’s true that keeping company with those who are hate-filled is bad for us. “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals’.” (1 Cor 15:33)
We aren’t, however, to stop loving or praying for them. Jesus said, “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matt 5:44).
Lord, I hear You that You want me to shake the dust off my feet (Matt 10:14) with this particular person and move on. You have shown me that to stay gives the enemy an opportunity into a chink in my armor. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom 12:21) Thank You, Lord, for your guidance for me, and I continue to ask You to use the Holy Spirit to do whatever it takes for this person to understand that they are on the broad road to the lake of fire, and, Lord, I so want them to become Your child and have the rest of their life be an amazing testimony to Your redemptive power! In the precious name of Jesus, amen!