Friday, March 30, 2007

the tongue is a fire

Without the purifying fire of the Spirit as experienced at Pentecost, the tongue left to itself is set on fire by hell. I find that we Christians often don't believe this. Or we fail to act on what we do believe here. (And I'm not saying we need to "speak in tongues" here.)

Not only can I fall prey to complaining about others, mainly to my wife, but I am sorely tempted to retaliate in the form of challenging perceived assaults against me or others. And these are both, easily, fueled by the fire of hell rather than by the Spirit of God.

When sorely tempted to retaliate we should keep quiet. Or when cursed we should bless. This all begins with the heart. Are our hearts being changed by faith? Is God by the Spirit and the Word in community helping us to more and more move in the new way of the Spirit while rejecting the old way of the flesh?

Sins of the tongue are not only deadly but they seem to be acceptable among Christians. To cast a slur on someone, to say those words in a knowing way between the two, to be remarking at the incompetence of others, etc., etc., etc. The strife of tongues. There are few things I hate worse than gossip and slander. And I feel like when someone else is being put down or belittled than I am being put down as well. Didn't Jesus identify with the entire human race and each individual human when he became flesh and then took the sins of the world on himself and died for those sins and sinners? And we are in him.

Sins of the tongue divide people. This is a preeminent result of the flesh (or "sinful nature" as TNIV/NIV/NLT often translate sarx). God wants the human tongue instead to bring restoration, reconciliation and healing into human relationships. We do this by listening well, by speaking less and by choosing our words, in love, carefully.

In the blog world this is true as well. Blogs that don't practice what we're to practice face to face fail at this point. But all too often sins of the tongue are okay and explained away, I'm afraid, by Christians. We don't really believe that the tongue is a fire.

What thoughts do you have on this?


andre said...


Good point on guarding the words we speak (or write). The inconsistency of using our tongue at times to build up but also to tear down is noted in this passage from James. (I don't think you linked to this part)

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and saltwater flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

Ted Gossard said...

Yes Andre. Always good to read in context and the whole passage. I was highlighting certain parts.

We're all guilty here and there at times. Though I'm not saying that we can't cut this out altogether, because I believe we can.

But what I'm getting after is when it becomes an accepted pattern of behavior. I'm afraid that we've bought into the world's influence on this, too often.


Anonymous said...

When we came to our present home, we were spanking-new Christians. My husband and I had left our scandalous, sinful lives behind, looking for a new beginning.

We began attending a church where the Word was/is faithfully preached. We really needed that solid teaching.

We were looked on with suspicion from the very beginning. People at church knew we lived in an "economical" house, and the clothes on our bodies could not be described as "spit-polished." To add to this, neither my husband nor I came from churched homes--so were didn't really know all the peculiar customs that surround church attendance.

My idealism about the community I would find at church fell flat after a couple of years of trying to "fit" into this small-town fundatmental church.

I made many attempts over the years to befriend others, but people would nervously smile, say God-bless-you, but always would decline offers to come over for coffee or anything else. Somehow, I started to feel as if I had leprosy that they could see, but I could not. It has caused me untold years of pain.

When our oldest son did some rebellious things, I could literally see scorn flaming from the eyes of some toward me as if I had done some hateful thing. I was already aching terribly in my spirit over his behavior, and rather than receiving comfort, I got condemnation.

At any rate, after living these 18 years here, and after keeping very short accounts with God, I am convinced that these developments with regard to our treatment at church has been the result of the wrong use of people's tongues.


Ted Gossard said...

Wendy, I can grieve with you. I've seen and experienced this. It was my first church experience too. Most of the people of that church, unlike what you describe, were not that way. But they didn't deal with a group of related people who were known to make fun of others. They made fun of my dad constantly because he was not cultured in their way, and of us as a family. This did hurt deeply. And did hurt Dad's attitude towards Christianity and the gospel (having not been raised in that kind of home).

Wendy, I can only say that this needs to be gently but firmly confronted with truth and in love. But likely one ends up having to find a fellowship of believers who know their true faces before God in the Mirror of his revelation to us, which of course, includes his wondrous and amazing grace to us all!

Many blessings on you and your family. And thanks for reading and for your commment.

Joe said...

This post brings conviction to my heart. I am grateful to the Lord for that. It is so easy to find yourself spreading gossip, participating in criticism, etc. Before you know it, you are neck deep in speech that certainly does NOT bring grace to the hearers.

As Jesus said; "Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." (Matthew 12:34) I think, I hope, that as our hearts are tender towards God, our speech will be tender toward others.

I know that when I am not walking in intimacy with my Father, that is when I am most critical of others.

Ted Gossard said...

Joe, It's so easy to fall into that critical spirit. I sometimes struggle with it towards those who I think are critical towards myself or others. Then I'm drawn into the same sin, at heart.

Thanks for sharing that. We've all been there, done that. And what you say is so good and right in regard to this. Thanks.

KM said...

Thanks for the challenge, Ted. Been in a situation recently where the most satisfying thing would have been to call names and dismiss someone with plenty of scorn. I can't say I've been cheery with the person; I've cried and I've been very angry, but I'm grateful that I've still been able to pray for that person. And it's amazing how difficult it is to gossip and scorn a person that you're actively praying for. It's not easy, mind you, to keep doing this, but it's been worth my own peace of mind at least! I think the situation would have been worse on me had I been feeding it with negativity. And I believe that God hears my prayers for this person, and I mean every blessing... But no, it's not easy; feels almost foreign (because grace is foreign to us...). Worth it all round though. :-)

Ted Gossard said...

KM, Great thoughts and I hear you in your struggle. Believe me when I know, anyhow from my own perspective and experience, what you're talking about.

People can really be hurtful, even Christians. What you're doing is exactly what Jesus told us to do. Pray for, bless and do good to those who mistreat us. Going the Jesus way is certainly not the way of the world which means retaliation and revenge.

Grace is foreign to us, but in Jesus we learn more and more to that tune and rhythm and begin to see more and more the distortions of the ways of the world.

Thanks for sharing and blessings on you as you continue to work through that.

Ted Gossard said...

to live more and more to that tune and rhythym of Jesus- I meant something like that.