Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. Psa. 19:4
Does anyone remember when parents whipped out a bar of soap and washed those bad words out of the mouths of children who spoke disrespectfully or said naughty words? If that were the case today, I’d buy stock in Proctor & Gamble, assured that I was set for life. I must be living in an alternate universe because the language I hear today is not at all familiar. At the end of some days, I almost feel the need for a good scrub, especially in my ears.
What has happened to polite discourse? Another thing I remember from childhood is the adage, “If you can’t say anything good about someone, don’t say anything at all.” Geez. If that were today’s rule, we’d be hearing nothing but the Sound of Silence. James was right on target when he wrote, “…the tongue is a fire…and it is set on fire of hell” (Jas. 3:6).
Are you as weary as I am by the horrendous volley of words that seem to be intent on destruction? What good can come from non-stop derision, fault-finding, judging, ridicule, mockery, and contempt? And, sadly, this is not a partisan issue.
I’m reading about the early Church in the first three centuries of its history and note that one of the criticisms levied at it was the meanness of the Christians. Digging a little deeper I saw that non-Christians disparaged Christians because they wouldn’t participate in popular social activities—the theater, the army, classic literature, sports—that were saturated with pagan worship. Christians knew they were to be set apart from secular practices that were in opposition to Christ. And what about us?
Do we dare to be different? Peter says (I Pet. 3:10) that we are to keep our tongues from evil and deceitful speech; our conversation is to be full of grace (Col. 4:6); we should only say what is helpful to build others up and to benefit them (Eph. 4:29); we are to keep our tongues from …lies (Psa. 34:13); we’re not to slander but to be peaceable, considerate, and gentle (Titus 3:2); and the tongue of the wise brings healing (Prov. 12:18). There are many other directives pertaining to what we say.
Apparently, Isaiah had a problem with his tongue—when he answered God’s call, the angel took a burning coal from the altar and touched his mouth saying his sin was forgiven and his iniquity taken away (Isa. 6:6-7). I guess even preachers must learn to control their tongues. And so should we. I’m ready to take the pledge to use my tongue to build others up and to benefit them. Enough of this tearing down. (And that also means I don’t pass judgment on those who weaponize their tongues. Instead, I pray for them.)
Father, I leave the judging to you, but I ask you to forgive me for using my words to wound rather than to heal. Make me an instrument of your peace and love. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.