This past week, I have been studying James chapter 3 in preparation for Sunday's lesson. Ah yes, James chapter 3, that chapter people often cringe at because of what it says about our speech.
Words like fire, blaze, unrighteousness, and phrases like set on fire by hell. Comparisons to unruly beasts, and being relegated to a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
God created with word. God left his revelation in word. Christ is the final word. As creations of God, we have this power of speech, this power that has both life and death in it (Prov. 18:21).
In the past few days, I have seen this reality online. This post does not intend to summarize the gory details. Feel free to partake of the drama elsewhere if you dare. This past week, I saw someone on Twitter be demeaning and belittling towards another's simple question. I left that exchange convinced that I'll never follow, interact, or pay much heed to that guy.
Who would dare say God's word is not relevant? Or outdated? Really? Poison is a good way to describe some of the words I have seen the past few days. This week, James's words repeat in my head:
My brothers, these things ought not to be.
Yes, dialogue is necessary, but reducing our discussion to playground tactics is not fitting for adults. How many people who behave this way online go home and reprimand their children for doing the same thing? And if we lack a good vocabulary, bookstores still sell dictionaries, and surely there must be an app for that.
In preparation for Sunday, I am compiling a list of negative ways of using speech as compared to positive ways. My list of negatives so far:
And each one of these can be preserved forever when we put them online.
Sometimes, what's funny in person isn't funny online, and while we can't tip toe around everyone all the time, we should remember that a comment that sounds like a great one-liner face to face can come across as curt online. We don't know what the person on the receiving end is going through. Years ago, someone made a very innocent comment to me in a comment thread, but it happened at a time when I was going through some really difficult times. It left me in tears. Yes, I guess I shouldn't be such a baby, but it was a good lesson for me to strive to think about the humanity of the other side of the screen.
I have been guilty of every one of those abuses of the tongue, and then some. It is my greatest downfall. The combination of having emotions too close to the surface and a quick reaction time is often disastrous. But I want to be better, and I suspect (I would hope, anyway) others would be on board with this. How can we on one hand use our words to show praise and thanksgiving to God, and then turn around and use them to tear an individual down?
God's word diagnoses the human heart most succinctly. It may be uncomfortable to honestly evaluate whether or not we are guilty of these things. But it is necessary. I have been on the receiving end of cruel, careless remarks, and I've given them to others. No, these things ought not to be.