In the last week my tongue has uttered a phrase that I never thought it would. “World Series Champion Chicago Cubs.” As a life-long, long-suffering, Cubs fan, I have known the languages of patience and persistence. Now, I have to learn to say, “Next year is this year.” I’ve discovered new meanings to “Cubs Win!” and “Holy Cow!”
On the other hand, over the past year, leading up to, and now just a few days past the election, we’ve heard all kinds of language, and seen how our own tongues need taming. Your tongue is capable of beautiful language when used for good. But, when bitterness and rage come out of our mouths, we need to tame our tongues.
A New Tongue
Pastor Ben’s sermon, Kingdom People and Christian Character – A New Tongue, brought us to the 9th commandment:
“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”
Exodus 20:16 NIV
While the language of that verse is perhaps best-aligned with the justice system, over the course of the Old Testament, proclamations regarding generally false statements and lying came to bear. Being falsely accused and falsely represented is an assault on our character. Lies and rumors from wagging tongues gain ground and regardless of their untruth, become part of other people’s perceptions. More than lies vs truth, the way we talk is important.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Ephesians 4:29-32 NIV
We learned that a better translation of the word we have as “Forgive” may be more along the lines of giving continuous ongoing favor and grace. That sort of kindness is rare in our world. Though, we all know that we should behave that way. We have the golden rule – treating others the way we want to be treated. Being graceful like that can easily extend to a new way of speaking.
If you don’t have something nice to say, shut your trap.
– Pastor Ben’s dad
I think Ben’s dad may have seen “Bambi” at some point, and took a colorful liberty with Thumper’s mom’s words.
Knowing Each Other
We can’t be graceful if we don’t know each other. The way we learn about each other is by listening, rather than pushing an agenda. At church, it’s easy to think that inviting someone to get involved is helpful, and it can be when they’ve expressed an interest in being involved in a particular area. What’s more important is learning to learn about another person. Making assumptions about why a new person has visited our church, or that they’ve ever been to a church before can create a barrier to ever getting to know them. Knowing each other, being more eager to listen than to speak, is the echo of God’s love and graciousness.