Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Midweek Grace - James 3:1-12
One of the highlights of growing up in West Philly during the 70’s was the Saturday matinée at the Capital Theater. The Capital was one those movie houses that were holdovers from another era. Perhaps at one time they like other neighborhood theaters showcased the latest Hollywood movies starring Bogart, Hepburn, Tracy and Grant. In the 70’s however Kung-Fu reigned and Bruce Lee was king. On Saturdays my friends and I would do our chores, gather our pennies and walk down to the Capital to see the latest high flying fighting fantasies of the kung-fu masters. Those cats were baaaaaaaaaaaad. Their bodies were trained fighting machines they launched as weapons at any opponent that dared challenge them. The damage done could be devastating. Their skills were supreme, technique breathtaking and artistry masterful. Yet, as skilled as they were in using almost every part of their bodies to inflict damage these brothers were nothing compared to the power of ungodly speech. In James 3 the apostle warns us of the severe and lasting damage ungodly words said in unkind ways can do.
James begins by warning those who would be teachers of God’s people of the stricter judgment God will exact upon them. Essentially he’s saying that if you can’t control what you say and how you say it to God’s people now, you ought not be a teacher in God’s church. If God’s people come away from speaking with you feeling demeaned and belittled then you need to honestly check yourself concerning the call to teach God’s people.
Moving on James declares that a chief mark of true holiness in the ability to control one’s words and use speech as a balm of healing rather than a weapon of war. If you pride yourself in how you can break someone down, bludgeon them in an argument and send them away dazed and confused then you are regressing in holiness, destroying God’s people and literally causing grief and sorrow to the Spirit whose ministry is binding the Body together in peace and unity.
According to James unwise, unkind and ungodly speech can do sudden, devastating and lasting damage. Ungodly speech is the spark that rages through the emotions of its victim like an out of control forest fire. This is so self-evident is hardly needs explaining. All of us have been on the receiving end of this kind of savage attack on our dignity and humanity. We’ve all been made to feel small, insignificant and marginalized by someone whose anger has raged out of control like a raving pit-bull. Since that’s the case dear ones we must take special care not to cause the Spirit sorrow by using speech that demeans our brothers and sisters, feeds conflict and furthers division in the church.
Finally, James compares the destructive and constructive use of speech. On the one hand we can use our words, speech and tone as poison that can seriously wound our brothers and sisters or we can use them as a healing balm of encouragement, enrichment and life. We can either speak well of and speak well to our brothers and sisters (the way we speak of and to our Lord) or we can go on playing the hypocrite by blessing our Lord and then cursing (speaking ill and maliciously) of and to God’s people. Our speech can either be a refreshing spring of grace, wisdom and concern or a bitter river of condemnation and criticism. We can either have speech that resembles sweet, ripe and nourishing fruit or spoiled, rotten and useless fruit. Begin to pray and ask our Lord to refine your speech and tone to reflect Christ-like godliness so that the next time you have a misunderstanding, issue or conflict with someone, (and you will) whether believer or non-believer you’ll speak in ways that give grace and build up instead of tear down.
Brothers and sisters let’s leave the fighting to the kung-fu masters. Let’s not treat each other as two opposing factions bent on hurting and destroying one another. The Spirit who lives in you and me has called us to pursue unity and peace in the atmosphere of God’s gracious love. Let’s speak to each other as those commissioned to walk worthy of the high calling we’ve received, not as extras in a 70’s kung-fu move.
To Him Who Loves Us…