Whether it’s on facebook
On comment sections of CRC websites
There’s a lot of really harsh language that’s out there. There’s this notion that if you are going to disagree with someone, that a normal way to express it is to malign the person.
We see it all the time.
I keep thinking about a phrase that I heard growing up “The world is creeping into the church”
Most of the time people say that in response to things like sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll. Or television. Or movies. Or beer.
When people say “the world is creeping into the church” they typically mean that we’re getting this lax view on morals.
But when I think of that phrase, I think of how the way we do politics in this country has been influencing the way we go about our spiritual business as the Body of Christ.
When is the last time you saw an ad for a politician that, while on the surface seemed to be talking about policy differences between candidates, wasn’t actually carrying the subtext: My opponent is an evil warlock who wants to eat your babies and kill your grandparents?
And this stuff gets played out on the news shows we watch
And it’s easy to get caught up in it because, well, it’s become part of our culture to get caught up in it
In verse 1, James is pointing out teachers in the church.
There are a few different takes on what James is getting at here.
One of my go to authors suggests that James is saying: If you are teaching people who God is…and how God can move in your life and how Jesus Christ is the Messiah sent to save you from your sins
If you’re going to take on that responsibility
You best recognize that you are not perfect and that not everything you are tempted to say to or about someone is holy.
It goes back to the stuff in Chapter one about true religion
If you claim to be religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on your tongue, you are deceiving yourself. Be slow to speak and quick to listen.
That’s an important thing to keep in mind. None of us is perfect. If we never say anything nasty or gross about someone…then yes, I suppose we could argue perfection
But who among us can pull that off?
So realize that we don’t pull this off…and watch what you say.
Especially those of us who have taken on the calling of teaching people God’s word.
What happens in verse 9 is crucial to not only understanding this passage, but also actually reaching the light at the end of the tunnel.
James says that with the same tongue we praise our Lord and Father
And with it we curse those who have been made in God’s image.
This can’t be right.
We know it’s not right
I mean how would you feel if during our time of adoration
We sang Holy Holy Holy
And before moving on to the next praise song I said, “Now let’s all recognize that Pat Robertson is a crazy man or that Rob Bell a vile example of humanity?”
We know that doesn’t work.
But what we have to see here is that the juxtaposition is not between praising people and cursing people
James isn’t saying the way to tame your tongue is to stop cursing people and start saying good things about people.
James is saying it’s incongruent with the saving grace of Christ to Praise God and curse people who bear the Image of God.
The only way we can ever get our tongues right
Is if we rely on God to make this happen.
And so, we don’t put all kinds of effort into “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it.”
But we make a lifestyle of praising God
And we really think about how each person on this earth
Bears God’s Image
And how cursing another human being
Is in essence cursing God
We’ll get a bit shaken
And we’ll feel the tension between our love for God
And the way we can tend to be cruel to people
Even if that cruelty resides mainly in unspoken thoughts.
How do you really stop making cruel judgments against people.
I mean, maybe we can get better at not just blurting out terrible things in conversation
But how do you not let your mind go there?
And as plainly as James puts it
And as on a practical level it seems a little too good to be true
To just praise God all the time
and boom, you have no more evil thoughts
We do worship a God who does change us
As Christians who have been saved by Jesus’ death and resurrection
God’s Holy Spirit has taken up residence in our hearts
And the Holy Spirit is active
The Holy Spirit is our Advocate
And if we are open to God’s leading
God will heal our hearts
And God will heal our thoughts.
And we can become people who not only speak of peace
But in our praise of the one who saves us, we can be people whose hearts and minds are filled with God’s peace.
But it’s uncomfortable
Because we also have to be active in the process.
We have to be honest with ourselves
We have to be honest about where our thoughts go
About where our hearts go
About where our words go.
God wants to shape you.
So let him
Accept the invitation
The invitation from our wonderful Savior who says to you and to me