Saturday, January 5, 2008

A World of Iniquity

There was a particular thing I read yesterday that precipitated a 2+ hour exchange of opinions with Kev and I, about the fine art of keeping one's opinions to themselves. No, the irony of discussing such a topic for 2+ hours does not escape me, because it actually is a difficult thing to do for a lot of people - me included.

See, I've always been one of those people who, for example, had comments from teachers in grade school on my report cards that said things like "nice student - talks too much". When I was younger I would be in constant trouble for being far too blunt in my shared opinions. Over the years and by God's grace I am still learning how to be more gentle and less harsh. I'm still one of those people however that if asked "do these pants make me look fat?", and they do, I will say yes. I tend to subsribe to the theory that if you don't want the truth, don't ask. Maybe some day I'll learn how to say "yes" in a way that might not sting so much, but for now it'll just be a yes.

Yesterday a friend said to me "today, we could all use some grace". I thought a lot about that as it pertains to learning the discipline of keeping ones opinions to themselves, and as it pertains to me especially, and I came to a few conclusions that I want to share. Your mileage may vary, but this is sort of a "this is where I am right now" post anyway.

Holding my tongue is best when:

I'm angry. This is really a no-brainer, but I've witnessed a monumental amount of people, professing Christians, that do not do this (me included). Instead they let the flesh fly and caught up in the moment they say things that should have never been said. We are exhorted in Scripture to be angry but sin not (Eph. 4:26). If for some reason I cannot express anger over something without sinning, then I need to simply hold my tongue until such time that I can. Obviously this is much easier to write than it is to do, and its something that I have certainly not arrived at yet, but I'm aiming for.

I can't speak in an edifying way. Of course this goes along with being angry and moved to let insults fly, but it's seperate in that if I am angry, I wont feel motivated to say edifying things but things that hurt. This is always bad, no matter if it's crafted in a subtle way, or in an out and out personal slam. When I was unsaved I was very good at being insulting when I was angry. It's a temptation I battle against to this very day because a.) it's sinful and Scripture is filled with verses and passages that tell us there is NEVER an excuse to speak this way b.) it hurts people and c.) its just downright mean and like the tired old "bullets from a gun" cliche, once the words are out you can't put them back. "Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be." (James 3:10 - emphasis mine)

I'm tempted to fight someone else's battles. This is one of those things I've always done, and it usually gets me into trouble. The worst time I ever had with this was the time in junior high that I jumped to the defense of a friend and ended up punched in the face with blood pouring into my eye and a scar to this day, to remind me of the trouble this sort of thing can cause. In that particular situation, the cause was just, but the way I handled it wasn't so spiffy. I have a very difficult time when friends and loved ones are unjustly accused or attacked, and standing by doing nothing is just not my style. By God's grace and the wise counsel of friends who care, I'm learning how to be a little more careful in the frays I jump into, and how I do it, if and when I do it. Being punched in the face is never fun, whether it's literal or verbal. Sometimes jumping into someone else's battle makes the situation even worse (which you never want to do), and/or becomes your battle, and takes on a new and even uglier life of its own. The key on this one is sharp discernment to assess the situation and apply wisdom.

I don't assume that any of this is earthshattering blogging going on here, but its something I have to constantly remind myself of because I'm constantly tempted to resort back to the "old ways". I don't want to be the old me, she's not a nice person, nor did she bring any glory to God with her words, written or spoken.

My pastor has begun to preach through the book of James. It's my favorite book of the Bible and I've read it and re-read it more times than I can remember. It cuts straight to my heart every time I read it and I need that. I leave you with this:

My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body.Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.

Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace. (James 3)