Bridling our tongue...and other things
Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.
But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing.
If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. ~ James 1:17-27
If James lived in this age of social media, he might have added a bit to this call to be slow to speak and to bridle our tongues.
He might have said: Bridle your thumbs from tweeting and be slow to post a reply on Facebook.
Because as we all know that words of anger and cruelty don't just come from our mouths anymore.
In some ways, they never did. Martin Luther certainly didn't always heed James here (he even said he wasn't a James fan). But the polemical writing in the past still took longer to put out than the immediate, impulsive reactions that we tend to put onto our Facebook pages or on Twitter.
And have you ever read some of the mean comments on YouTube?
We live in an age of impulse - and when our impulses are angry or offended or irritated, we have a much quicker way to make sure hundreds of people see that anger. That anger is now out for the world to see.
Yet we are called to another way. To restrain ourselves from acting on that impulse. To use words that lift up rather than tear down.
One trick I've tried in the past when someone said something that angered me and I impulsively wanted to attack back, is to write my thoughts on a piece of paper and put it aside. Later, when I re-read it, I can either edit it to be generous.
Or sometimes, it is enough to have written it once for only my eyes to see, and then throw it way to remember myself.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heard by acceptable to you, my Rock and my Redeemer. Amen