Our Words and Our Witness…inextricably intertwined

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29

I’ve considered this scripture and many more like it lately as I’ve seen and heard friends, co-workers, local and state leaders jump into the current tide of demeaning, and divisive rhetoric.

Spoiler Alert: What I write here today is for my Christian brothers and sisters. Those who have accepted the call to the cause of Christ and who are being led by the Spirit to be a witness to this world… Do Not Engage!

The witness of the Church has become so like that of the world that we are becoming barely distinguishable from everything around us. What happened to us being set apart for God, looking different than the world, being resident aliens in hostile territory? “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

This week’s political convention, followed by another next week, it stoking the fires of an already emotionally charged and volatile debate in this country. Now, I do not claim to be an expert in politics and can only claim to be an amateur theologian, however, I can’t imagine (because of what we’re shown in scripture) that Jesus would approve of our participation in, or acceptance of, the current conversations.

I was stunned when a friend of mine commented Tuesday morning that neither empathy nor compassion are mentioned in the constitution of the United States. As if being American legally precludes us from our Christian calling to care for the needs of others before our own. To love others as we love ourselves. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31

There is no grace or mercy in speaking slander or lies about people you don’t even know, in order to win an argument. The ends here do NOT justify the means. Every hateful, slanderous negligent, divisive word that comes forth from your mouth leaves a mark. It condemns your heart, it damages others and it completely destroys your witness to the world. “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” James 3:9-12 Words, once spoken, can not be taken back. Words spoken in secret are still heard by God. He will judge the fruit of our lives and our hearts.

Competing political candidates are your neighbors, not your enemy. People who look different than you are your neighbor, not your enemy. People who choose to live their lives different than you are your neighbor, not your enemy. And, even if they were your enemy, Jesus tells us to love and pray for them too.“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48.

We have an opportunity to help stem the tide of hateful speech that is over taking our country and causing so much division and pain. Examine y our words, speak with love and mercy and forgiveness. If you find that is something you can not do, then choose to cause no harm, and stay silent. In the words of my bunny buddy Thumper, best friend to Bambi, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

We know that we have a greater treasure that we can imagine waiting for us. When this world passes away all these arguments that seem so important now, arguments we’ll say anything to win…will just not matter. However, the people we damage, the people we cause to turn from Christ because of our broken witness, will matter very very much.

Please help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change our world!

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