My husband is a gifted Bible teacher and I will never forget the first sermon I ever heard him preach. It was entitled, “Do You Have a Silver Tongue?” and it was based upon the first half of Proverbs 10.20: The tongue of the righteous is choice silver. The theme was simple: Christians, of all people, should speak life-giving, comforting, encouraging, and anointed words. This is a theme that runs throughout the Bible, but do we know what it means for us in our age of electronic conversation?
Joe answered this 30 years ago with a compelling line: “Sometimes we shoot off at the mouth before our brain is loaded.” I have no clue whether he borrowed the phrase or made it up, but the powerful truth provides excellent perspective for Christians who want to have a godly impact on the world.
All too often we spout off opinions, quote scripture, and take aim at our perceived enemies in the name of Jesus. The list of hot topics housed regularly in our “status,” news feeds, and blogs is endless:
And of course, Gun Control
If we cared as much about Christ’s reputation as we claim, we’d control the gun hanging between our teeth. The meanness we spill out on the internet is often pathetic, friends. And I say, “we” because I am guilty too. What service are we doing Jesus by being mean-spirited and dogmatic when we could actually make any point with gentleness and love instead? Our hypocrisy is evident to those we’re trying so hard to convince. And worse, our children hear what we say and will model our tone and attitude.
And let’s be honest, depending on what’s in the news, many of us surf Facebook looking for a debate. Or we post something controversial because we know our friends will join us in using someone’s opinion like a bull’s eye. Regardless of our intentions, those at whom we aim may feel like we are shooting at them with a machine gun, or throwing mace in their faces, or giving them water from a rusty cup. What do we accomplish for Jesus by sharing our convictions in a nasty, critical spirit?
The truth of God should be served on a silver platter with good manners, poise, and kindness. Sure, Jesus got angry and made a stand for righteousness, but much of his anger was directed at hypocrites because they were misrepresenting his Father. Do we misrepresent God when we shoot off at the mouth? I think we do.
With the wayward, Jesus was a genius. He was both loving and convincing. He helped people discover their need with compassion and care.
Contrast that with the way people argue on news channels. We can’t allow pundits to disciple us in the sport of mocking, disrespect and character assassination. Otherwise, our conversation will not be seasoned with salt. It will be riddled with bullets.
Contrast Christ’s forgiveness with our incessant faultfinding. We’re insanely obsessed with the splinter over yonder when there’s a Sequoia protruding from our own eyeballs. Our sins of hate and arrogance and prejudice grieve Christ too. And what about all the private struggles we face every day? There is plenty of sin in our own lives to keep us busy, so why make everybody else out to be so much more criminal or stupid?
Those who shoot literal guns may accidently harm friends, families and strangers, because of fear or carelessness. Similarly, we’re quick to shoot off at the mouth as though the privilege of representing Christ is a form of recreation. It’s not. Or maybe fear and carelessness control us too. We’re afraid that if we don’t say something, sin in the world will get worse. So we aim too quickly, we push send, we post a comment. Offense and hurt feelings follow like bloodshed.
But remember, we have nothing to fear. Jesus is going to win the battle for righteousness, so we don’t have to be like Peter and slice ears (John 18.10). Neither do we have to be like James or John and pray for lightning to stike those who reject Christ (Luke 9.54). Actually, Jesus rebuked the disciples for their misguided fervor:
“You know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man has not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”
So let’s try to save some lives with wise words. Christ’s kingdom is built on peacemaking, not debating. Rather than bear our verbal arms, we need to take our cues from the Savior’s bare arms, stretched wide in love for the whole world.
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4.6