A Word from the Lord Will Help V. "Loose Lips, Hard Hearts: Tongue Taming Truths

Some things are hard to say and hard to hear. Brace yourself. Something you learned when you were a little kid turns out not to be true. That famous book about Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten is wrong…. (And this is not the first time, or the last) You remember, from a little one on up, how you and I were taught, "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me!" WRONG! WAY WRONG! Old Testament to New, Jesus to James, the Good Book tells us of the power for good and for evil with the human tongue. According to Proverbs 6, #2 on the Good Lord's list of things he hates: a lying tongue. "A false witness" comes in at #6 on the list of abominations to God. Jesus says, "With the judgment you pronounce, you will be judged." And maybe his ½ brother James says it sharpest of all, "So the tongue is a little member and boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire." Look out now, for the next few minutes we might just quit to preachin' and get to meddlin'! See, almost all of us have tongue troubles from time to time. We all experience what I think are the three great sins here. And we are all subject to the same redeeming graces. First sin, it's the tongue that takes God's name in vain. Dishonors God. Take care in this and there's a grace: it will open your heart toward heaven. Second, the tongue is our most conspicuous violator of what Jesus calls the second great commandment, to love our neighbors as ourselves. Restrain the tongue and we gracefully redeem many a relationship. Third sin, the tongue can tear at the church, the Beloved Community, and tear at the peace of the human community. Or in grace, it can build them up.

O, it's our tongues, alright. Too loose sometimes. They take the Lord's name in vain. Tame our tongues… and our hearts are pried open to God. To take God's name in vain. To use his name casually, without respect for his Holiness. To misrepresent his goodness, or devote him to our own most selfish purposes. It's not just cussing. It's calling on him in a crude, callous way. The tongue speaks for and reveals the heart. And God wants nothing less from us than to walk blamelessly, and do what is right, and speak truth from our hearts. (Ps. 15: 1) This is serious business, even in an age that doesn't take it seriously.

Jesus shows his deep view of misusing God's name in the Sermon on the Mount. "You've heard it was said to those of ancient times, 'You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you've made to the Lord.' But I say to you, don't swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool… Let your 'Yes, be Yes' or 'No, No'; anything more than this comes from the evil one." Mtt. 5: 32-35, 37. Then as now, everybody knew. Begin some oath with the Lord's name, suggest he has a last one, as so many do today in anger, and you dishonor God. But Jesus says more. Call God to your side to prove your point, and you're just as guilty. Two days before the election last week, somebody really asked me if God was a Republican or a Democrat! All ads to the contrary, God is bigger than both. God is not to be used, like some endorsement for shampoo. Or whatever you and I are sellin'. Some star, or singer, or athlete lends his name or hers to soap or shoes, and folks will buy it like it's better than the rest. It's false advertising 'cause the goodness of the thing is not in the thing, but in the name of the endorser. Jesus knows what God wants from you and me is an utterly honest heart and a truly straightforward word. He doesn't want us manipulating each other or conning each other in his name. (Just because you prayed about your opinion, or your course, doesn't necessarily mean it's of God. Especially if the outcome seems to match whatever you really wanted or thought in the first place!) Don't take God's name in vain in your own soul… don't fool yourself. And don't let your lips sin this way either.

Tame your tongue, and it just may open your heart to God. A quick story. A preacher-friend always told us in meetings his view was as God's. He often lost. Another friend spoke softly, regularly carried the day. "Why?" someone asked the then Bishop. He said, "I always know she's opened her heart to God. So she needn't say she's speaking for him. We could all learn from that," he said. Us too.

Our tongues reveal our hearts. Sometimes our hearts are hard. We break the #2 commandment of Jesus! But our tongues and words can redeem as well. On the Mountain, Jesus says, "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your brother's eye, but don't notice the log in your own?" (Matt. 7: 1-3) Oh, we need some help with this one. Jesus reminds us we have this terrible habit of building ourselves up by tearing other people down. At home, school, work, on the road (ever notice it's the other driver who's stupid), even in church! Jesus can teach us about judging. He can help us train our hearts and tame our tongues. (Look at your insert, if you like, now's your time to fill in the blanks.)

The log and the speck! [Doc, it's about my brother story.] That's us, isn't it? Oh, we can, we're even instructed to… be discerning… but without judging one another. No building ourselves up, tearing others down. Jesus teaches us to beware of self-righteousness. Caution in criticism is a spiritual virtue. See, our motives are mixed and our vision is faulty. We wanna play God. That's the real sin in all judgment of one another. We wanna judge the other person's worst by our best… and we make our best better than it is. In the end our hyper-criticism is hypocritical. We dare not say those Christ died for aren't good enough for us to live with! It's one thing, as Jesus says, to try to discern, to spy out, whether the fruits of our own or someone else's life or faith produce healthy food or poor spiritual fruit, worthy of our following after. It's another to play God with a spirit that fails to love our neighbor as ourselves. (Jesus' 2nd Commandment) Here's a little practical spiritual advice for the next time you wanna correct somebody else, or criticize them. First, find the Psalms in your Bible. Look up and read Psalm 15. It's very short. Then head over to Psalm 51: 1-13. (Mark these down on your insert.) Read it once. Pray it five times: aloud, silently, aloud, silently, aloud. Note the last 2 verses. "Restore to me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then [only then] I will [be able to] teach transgressors thy ways, and [only then] sinners will return to thee [because of me]. Now, call or go see the one you want to knock, or correct. Always go to them, directly, never to anybody else, especially first!

Oh, our words can tear, even at the church, the Beloved Community of Christ, and tear at the peace of the human community. Or they can build up the Body, and bring on the peace of Christ. We will have to decide. 'Know what old Satan's best weapon is to aim at the church? The remarks we members make about each other and the Body… to those outside it. [Email e.g.] The opposite is equally true. Christ's best evangelists are those who just say good stuff, about him first, of course, but also, about the Body of Christ, the Church. Like all churches, this one has known both. It's up to us which way it's goin' any particular day. But let's understand what's at stake, and the power we possess, right on the tip of our tongue. James has surely got it right, "So the tongue is a little member and boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire…. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing." James 3: 5-10. With words alone, we can burn this place down, or build it. Our call. Any church's. Paul's advice to the church at Ephesus is good advice to ours and all the churches of Odenton. And what would the world look like if we tried it at the UN, or when nations, peoples, interests sit at the negotiating table? It could even revolutionize our kitchen and dining room tables. "…Putting away falsehood, let every one speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil…. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." Ephesians 4:25-5:2, ed. Shall we honor God in Christ, or dishonor him? Judge or be judged? Burn or build, the Church, the community, the whole human family of God? Not sure? This much is for certain. Even Jesus says so. It's right on the tip of your tongue!

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