James 3:9-10 New International Version (NIV)
9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.
I was caught off guard last night, when an acquaintance of ours stopped my husband and me to warn us about one of our new neighbors. “You know (person x) has been to jail twice for (X crime).” Our acquaintance then spewed out hateful curses and fears about all the evil that might/could happen now that this new person has come to the neighborhood, and how they don’t “deserve” to live here. I hope the fears and curses are unfounded or exaggerated. I didn’t know how to respond–the anger and fear were palpable, and even understandable. No one wants to live in an area noted for crime. But…
What caught me off guard about the encounter was not the possibility that we have a neighbor with a criminal history, or that uncovering a person’s criminal past would make someone fearful or angry. What got to me was the level of spite and viciousness, and the expectation that our reaction would be immediate and profound.
What got to me even more was my actual reaction. It wasn’t anger at the new neighbor, but suspicion toward my acquaintance. Why the urgency in spreading this “news”– why the visceral hatred? (The crime in question wasn’t murder, and no details of the crime were related.) Following close on the heels of this was the thought that this was very much like some of the posts I see on social media or in my e-mail–sensational reports of crimes, and Hate Speech, and scandals–vicious stories, often exaggerated or even untrue, about everyone from people I know or used to know from my hometown, all the way up to heads of state and “respected” celebrities falling from grace.
And how do I react to those pieces of cyber gossip and internet sensations, and “fake” news reports? Do I eagerly spread the word, sparing little thought of the worthiness of the information or the consequences to both the guilty and innocent people involved? Do I ever wonder what would happen if I were the subject of such wildfire rumors or smear campaigns?
Romans 3:13-18 (NIV)
13 Their throats are open graves;
their tongues practice deceit.
The poison of vipers is on their lips.
14 Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.
15 Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 ruin and misery mark their ways,
17 and the way of peace they do not know.
18 There is no fear of God before their eyes
Is that me? Do I, with the same mouth that praises and prays to God, curse and spread poison about people made in His image? People I don’t even know or never have met? Do I delight in pointing out the worst in others? Do I rush to shed blood (figuratively) and destroy the lives of other people from the safety and anonymity of my computer or phone? Do I play judge, jury, and executioner because it makes me feel clever or self-righteous?
This should not be.
Lord, search me and know my thoughts and words. Give me the strength to tame my tongue and the fingers that itch to “share” poison and lies and misery. Help me to know the way of peace, and to speak truth about your grace and your holiness, not what I imagine my own to be.