By Rev. Dr. Kevin Payne
There have been many events that have rocked our society in the past few weeks: lost emails, police shootings, and allegations of a plagiarized speech in the political arena – just to name a few.
Soon after my Facebook page was filled with comments both for and against every one of these issues. Quickly the discussion degraded. Many who offered remarks began referring to those who held different opinions horrible things. Scripture references were being used to verbally assault others. Some even reverted to racial slurs, sexist comments, and even praying for horrible things to happen to other people. –Oh, did I forget to mention that professing followers of Christ made the comments to which I am referring? These who posted inspirational memes and scriptural references two posts up now posted some of the vilest comments below.
The apostle James writes in the letter that bears his name: 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 3:7-10, NRSV)
I am not railing against people speaking their minds and opinions. As citizens of our nation we have the right to free speech. We have the right to say how we fell about things affecting our society. Other people have a right to state how they feel about it, too.
But, as Christians, our rights end when we begin to twist words to intentionally slander another. It does not matter if we agree or disagree with them, it is wrong. Doing so serves no helpful purpose. We take fragments of comments out of context. We watch a 1minute video and think we know exactly what happened in the 20 minutes prior. We do not check to see if the information we are getting is true, we just mindlessly pass it on.
As followers of Christ, we are called to be a part of changing the world. How can we be a part of God’s redeeming work if we act just like the way the world is currently?
Don’t misunderstand me – we need speak our minds, stand up for what we believe, and challenge positions that we believe are wrong. But let’s do so with grace, dignity, and integrity. There is no room to release the “deadly poison” of the tongue. We cannot forget that those who are on the other side of whatever positions we hold are, just like us, created in the very image of God. After all, Jesus loves and died for the whole world.
Let us speak our minds; yet hold our tongues in check. After all, 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.