In Chapter 3, Pastor Adam Hamilton addresses the idea of words, the building blocks of the thoughts that we try to pass on to others.
Without words, we would have little idea about what another person is thinking, other than through their body language.
Everyone would agree that words are essential, yet why do we treat them with such disregard?
The title of Chapter 3 is “If you can’t say anything nice…” and you know the end of this statement, “don’t say anything at all.” It is all about those words we use.
In today’s climate the use of words has taken on a whole new meaning with the word social media. I am a senior citizen and I have spent my whole life specializing in low tech communications [that is face to face, one human to another]. So the term “social media” poses problems for me. It really does not seem that “social.”
Before you point out my inconsistency, let me admit that I am using a blog to express my ideas and the blog is connected to Facebook. Some of you may think my preference for face-to-face communication should preclude my use of this “social media.” I am living a lie. Guess so.
However, it is the idea of media that introduces problems in our world today, media meaning “ the means of conveyance, or expression; especially referring to mass media.” Media is the “method we use” to send out messages to large numbers of people. “In the old days,” mass media methods were television or a newspaper but today mass media can mean Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google, Instagram, Flickr etc. etc.
For the person who wants to express themselves, the door has swung wide open. With a computer, it is much easier to get a message out to anyone who will read it.
This is where words come into play.
What are the words you are sharing with others? Do you find yourself expressing edifying ideas or are you expressing ideas that should never escape your mind?
I have found that the internet is the place where many people lose their filters. Some people will write things to others that make us cringe. Even in this Presidential election process, candidates have taken to social media to express themselves and I shake my head and ask “what were they thinking?”
It seems like the boundaries for appropriate expression are lost even in the Christian community. James it trying to warn his Jewish-Christian brothers and sisters about the problem of the tongue with the words from James 3 “When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”
I find it interesting to note that first century Christians had problems with their use of words just like we do today.
They did have an advantage. They did not have social media.
However, they did have the temptation to use words to destroy others. Pastor Hamilton states sarcastically that the words from James quoted above “don’t apply to president’s political parties and others with whom we disagree.” At least that is how it seems for many Christians.
Then Hamilton says it. [You aren’t going to like this.] “If they don’t apply to these [situations], to whom do they apply?”
People don’t often want to be confronted with the truth. Jerry Bridges in his book Respectable Sins writes about the use of harmful words in the Christian community: “any speech that tends to tear down another person—either someone we are talking about or someone we are listening to—is sinful speech”.
What happens to us when we use social media? It seems the firewall is gone. We let fly! We express and then we think. Hamilton says “Rather than trying to understand why [others] believe what they believe, and being open to the possibility that we are wrong, we feel threatened by their convictions and look for ways to criticize the individual and his or her convictions.”
As we return to James 3, James says “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 comes praise and cursing….Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?”
You know the answer
Of course it can. Fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring all the time and it our sin with words that causes that.