Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Taming the Tongue

Damien and Gretchen invited us over for a cookout because Gretchen's mother is in town. I had only met her once before and we both wanted to get to know each other better since our kids will be married next year. So we waited for dinner and made small talk. I hate "small talk." I like big talk about meaningful topics. So I asked Gretchen's mom her views on immigration since she lives in Arizona. Mistake! Soon people jumped in to express their opinions while some people simmered holding theirs back. At one point I thought, "I'm just like Dominic--stirring up people!" He always knows how to get the conversation ball rolling with his questions. Actually my son Jon is like that too. At a crowded 4th of July event, as we waited for fireworks to begin, Jon casually asked my friend, "So what do you think of Obama?" I was worried about shouting and fist fights erupting in the crowd.

As I reflect back on our conversation at Damien's house, I realized our discussion was inappropriate for the time and place and I was insenstive in what I said. It was an opportunity to bring Biblical perspective to the conversation and I did not do that.

So today I read James 3. "For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things."

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness...no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God."

So what is the answer? Jesus said out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. I need to clean up what's inside, so what comes out in words is not poison. James 3 ends with the solution. The verses say we need wisdom--wisdom that is pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. The chapter ends with: "A harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace."

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