By Michael J. Brooks
The lady behind the counter listened to my request, and then made a simple statement, “You’re not from around her, are you?”
I was on a trip at the time above the Mason-Dixon Line and I suppose it was clear I was from the deep South! We Southerners don’t really notice our speech patterns but we do notice those from other regions. And sometimes our nativity is revealed through the truisms we speak.
Vivian, from Ohio, was a fellow officer in a political collectors club. The group customarily has a Saturday evening banquet with former president Jimmy Carter. Our meeting is late September and the president’s birthday is October 1, so we’ve celebrated a few significant birthdays with him–85, 90 and more recently, his 95th. Vivian was our secretary at the time and called to ask my blessings on her plans for presenting the cake. She told me what kind of cake she’d ordered and when she thought the cutting should be in the banquet program. She’d only just begun when I said, “Vivian, I don’t have a dog in that fight. Do what you think best.”
“A dog?” she said. “What does that mean?”
What I meant was I trusted Vivian to do the right thing and she always did a beautiful job without my input. I learned this is a Southern idiom apparently unknown north of the Ohio River!
The scripture tells a familiar story in all four gospels. Peter “followed afar off” when Jesus was arrested and brought to trial. He got close enough to see what was happening and to listen for information. Peter also got close enough to warm himself at a fire someone had started. Ministers a generation ago used to preach about Peter “warming by the devil’s fire.” But at least he was close by. The other disciples had run for cover.
Peter had minimal conversation with his compatriots around the fire, but enough conversation for them to know he wasn’t native to Judea.
“You’re with Jesus,” one said to him. “We can tell you’re not from here. Your speech betrays you” (Matthew 26:73).
Peter denied knowing Jesus to save his own neck and confirmed these denials by cursing like he once did. At that moment the rooster crowed, and Peter wept his heart out knowing he’d denied the savior.
Our speech betrays us, too. It’s relatively insignificant which section of the country we’re from, but it’s very significant that our speech is pleasing to the Lord.
Not only are we to speak words of truth and kindness, but we’re enjoined to speak words of witness to those who don’t know the savior. Christ must be lord of all, including our tongues. -30-
Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster, Ala. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.