Thursday, May 31, 2007

Up and Down

I started writing a blog yesterday and as I re-read it, I was obviously a whiny mess, so I deleted it. However, the content was exactly what I was having trouble with. Now that I feel much more normal, I am going to restate the intention.

It's all about the tongue and the words that we feel are so important to share with the world. James speaks to this issue more than once in his epistle.

"Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

"All kinds of animals, birds and reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison." (James 3:5-8)

Now, I have had this verse preached at me and I have had it taught to me many times throughout my life. I still don't seem to absorb it! I try daily to curb my tongue and be careful of what I say, but I fail all the time.

Ok, I want to keep that verse in context with something that James says earlier:

"Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires." (James 1:19-20)

Alright, one more:

"What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you?" (James 4:1)

Oh ... James isn't done!

"With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curs men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be!" (James 3:9-10)

James wears me out. I can't read through his epistle without feeling an extreme amount of guilt. Right now there are so many thoughts flying through my mind, it's going to be difficult to get them all written down, but ... I'll give it a shot!

I lead worship on Sunday mornings and when I leave, I find myself talking about the events of the morning. More often than not, it's gossip. I can't tame this tongue from gossip.

My opinion matters. Now before you take offense at that statement, I'm being a bit facetious. "I" believe that my opinion matters. Notice the last line of the introduction to my blog "They Call Me the Oracle". I have a million opinions and I believe that they are all important. Not so much. When I am more concerned with stating my opinion than caring for the people around me, I am in an unhealthy place. I can't tame this tongue from sharing my opinions.

Anger has been a lifelong challenge for me. I am passionate about life and about the things and people that I love. When something crosses that line into my passion, fury erupts. I have been moderately successful at reigning in that fury over the big picture of my life, but I allow it to send me over the edge and I open my mouth and say things that are only meant to hurt and to shock. I can't tame this tongue from spewing anger.

Growing up in the church, I have always known that people pour their passions and their lives into the church and they have the same failings as I do with regards to the tongue. Dad always blocked much of that venom from coming into our home, but I know that it wounded him terribly. Once I left his protection, I became more and more aware of the pure filth that comes from church members mouths.

Over the last 15 years, I have experienced some incredible nastiness. I have been startled by the fact that it happens at all.

I giggle ... as I associate this bad behavior with a statement from a liberal pastor when explaining his view on why he didn't believe that Jesus was the divine Son of God. At least he was upfront in his belief. I didn't get side-swiped by him. I didn't need to hold him to the same standards as the rest of my Christian brethren ... he didn't believe in those standards.

But, for those of us who call ourselves 'Christian', we have a responsibility to watch our tongue.

Our opinions are NOT that important - not nearly as important as showing grace within the love of Jesus.

Our anger is NEVER justified - it's amazing what happens when we accept that there are other points of view and reasons for an event happening as it did.

And gossip? I shouldn't have to say too much about that. Building up the individuals in the body of Christ will bring healing, destruction comes from gossip.

Now ... I've been very vague and very careful when writing this post. I never want one person (who wouldn't be reading this blog anyway) to feel that I'm speaking specifically to them. (I remember standing beside my father as people left worship, Sunday after Sunday. They would always accuse him of spying on them throughout the week. He never spoke to one specific person ... but, our guilt can certainly accuse us when we have been outside the love of God, eh?)

My friend, Rebecca has been writing about the mouth as well. Her stuff is pretty cool. We can make choices before we speak out loud. I can make choices before I say things. Mom always told me that if I didn't have something nice to say, I didn't need to say it. She was right. There is never any call for mean-spirited words - even if we think they are justified because our cause is so important. Grace ... love ... encouragement.

Actually, I'll let Paul say it from Galatians 5:22:

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."

There's nothing there about being right, or having an opinion or criticism. Right? Right.

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