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Taming the Tongue

It is a wonderful thing that God has invited us into the work of recreation, and that the words we speak, imbued with the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit, are the most powerful part of this. Words matter ... a lot! This goes back to the beginning of creation when God "spoke" all things into being (see Gen 1). It is then reinforced through the incarnation, the Word that was with God in the beginning, now taking flesh as a man and living among us (John 1:14). We then get to play a part in this great work by announcing the good news that the kingdom of God is here, we get to pronounce forgiveness and peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul in his letters, especially his letter to the saints in Ephesus, shares about how the key to our growth together as a body of Christ-followers, is our ability to literally "truth in love", or as it is usually translated, "speak the truth in love" (Eph. 4:14-16). This, of course, is not as easy as it seems because it takes courage, we have to risk something partly because not everyone is ready, willing and able to receive the truth, but also (perhaps more significantly), we also do not have all the truth and so we can be mistaken, ill-informed or even deceived. Not only that, but also our 'position' may carry a degree of emotion with it that may cause me to go on the offensive (or defensive) with another person and therefore our growth together into Christlikeness gets replaced with a need to win, to prove ourselves, or even to get some kind of revenge.

In that moment, James reminds us, that tongue with which we can bless the other, rather chooses (under our direction) to curse! (I thought of this when I saw this clip of grizzly bears fighting). We probably all know this by experience on both sides of the fence. So what are we to do?? Well this is where a foundation of covenant love and faithfulness is so vital. It is the way God relates to us and then invites us to relate to one another in the same way. that is why the Great Commandment is actually 2 ... to love God and our neighbour (see Matt 22:37-40). This security then gives us the freedom to risk "truthing in love".

Then there is this powerful verse ...

Before we speak, check ourselves and think ... are my words wholesome, helpful and beneficial? Would I like to hear them myself? Do they meet genuine needs that this person has? I have recently been encouraging certain groups to only use the following 2 forms of speaking to this end;

  1. Advocate for something you believe in, feel strongly about for yourself, feel that the Lord is showing or impressing upon you. Interestingly Jesus himself is called an Advocate (see 1 John 2:1), someone pleading with the Father on our behalf when we sin! (Don't you love that ... he's not condemning, judging or criticizing but supporting and championing us). 'Advocate' is also a name given by Jesus for the Holy Spirit, not surprisingly as He is the Spirit of Christ (see John 14:16, 26 and John 15:26).

  2. Inquire of the other person (especially if they are different or you disagree) to better understand and know them, even with a view to learning from them for the purpose of your own growth. As Jordon Petersen says in his book, 10 Rules for Life, 'Assume the person you are listening to knows something you don’t'.

Let's purpose together to focus on these two priorities in our conversations and interactions and let us put off the old, unproductive habits of complaining, grumbling and criticizing. These things displease our Father in heaven, never lead to anything healthy or good (just ask the children of Israel in their wilderness wanderings - see Num 17:10-11), and Jesus (John 6:43) and Paul (Phil 2:14) tell us to do the same.

With love and prayers,.


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