The tongue. What an amazing thing it is. Consider what James has to say about it:
…[T]he tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. (James 3:5-10)
What has me reflecting on these words is the nightly television regurgitation of violent hate speech masquerading as a legitimate expression of public expression combined with commentators who seem to rejoice in manipulating information, or just make it up, for no purpose other than to tear down, humiliate and attack. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so, and it’s even worse when it’s done in the name of Jesus Christ.
I recognize that this is not something new. We’ve had this kind of hate speech from colonial days on. It has been a staple in every presidential campaign from the start. What makes it different today is the saturation level. Everything is instantaneously transmitted to everyone and then repeated ad nauseum with inane “analysis” added to the mix. There is almost no time to stop, reflect, study and discern.
I would like to think that this is a “them” problem. You know; “it’s all their fault,” “they should stop,” etc. It’s not. It often starts at a very low level, right in our congregations, by professing Christians. I confess that, as an ordained minister but practicing curmudgeon, I sometimes find myself among the crowd of “they.” A bit of barbed wit with a sharp turn of phrase is just the thing to put someone at a disadvantage or tweak them into an injudicious response while assuming the role of smug innocence. Gossip and rumors rule the ebb and flow of congregational information byways causing untold hurt and damage along the way. Hoards of denominational wannabe leaders make it their business to “be in the know” about everyone and everything while offering their opinions about all of it. James was right. We can tame just about anything but our tongues, and the fires we can set with them can be huge, dangerous and murderous. God have mercy on us.
Consider then with me the words of the letter to the Ephesians. I’m going to see if I can make it through 24 hours, which will be easier if I can stay away from the health care issue.
Eph. 4:29 Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.