My parents were really strict about how we treated each other in our family and in our circle of friends as we were growing up. When the triangle of elementary neighborhood friends got into a tangle we could call each other some pretty hurtful names. The immediate reaction was to yell back (and I mean yell), Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me! The louder I said it the more convinced I was that it was not true. Tears were the norm and a cup of hot chocolate and a listening ear from my mother was the usual salve.
How I long for the simplicity of those days. Adults can be very mean. Often hatred, slander, accusations are made through sarcasm, in the guise of humor. Other times falsehoods are twisted as truths. Sometimes the meanness is just that, plain meanness, in order to have one’s own way.
The Apostle Paul reminds us in this letter to Timothy…
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.
I witnessed the truth of these power words of Paul this past week at the General Assembly meeting of the Presbyterian Church USA. A few words (whether Tweeted, emailed, posted on Facebook or spoken directly) set the forest ablaze. It was very sad. I do not know the whole truth and rumors made the situation more disgraceful than perhaps it really was. Regardless, my reflective self kicked into gear. Where have I, purposely or not, participated in promoting hurt? Where have I promoted my own self at the detriment of another? Where am I called to confess my own lashing of the tongue? They are good questions for us all, at one time or another, to place before God.
Hope abounds! Whether it is for a child learning how to be in respectful relationship with others who aren’t always kind or as adults who should know better, we can absorb the lesson and can rise above our baser natures.
Our tongues were made to praise! To sing! To give thanksgiving! To share the grace one has received in faith. Scripture calls one to… have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called--that you might inherit a blessing. For
“Those who desire life
and desire to see good days,
let them keep their tongues from evil
and their lips from speaking deceit;
let them turn away from evil and do good;
let them seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 1 PETER 3:8-12
Lord, hear my prayer.