The past week has been interesting, to say the least. In the aftermath of the riot in D.C., much has been made about what was said and by whom. The issue of free speech has come up in a very profound way, particularly regarding social media. Twitter, Google, and Amazon made some drastic moves last week, and it ramped up discussions on issues like free speech, censorship, and liberty.
As I have been thinking of this, I keep coming to these verses, from James 3:3-10:
If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies. Or look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so.
Friends, I want us to step back from that and think about our own words (and social media posts). What we say and how we say it ought to be consistent with who we are as Christians, the very point James is making. I will be the first to admit that I get this wrong more than I get it right. One of the most important things I took away from seminary (and I share this often), is a quote I found from one of the early church fathers, Arsenius. “I have often repented from having opened my mouth, but never for having kept it shut.”
What we say and post has consequences. At the very least, words shape the opinions others have of us. At worst, our words can lead to actions that besmirch the name of Christ. The following questions are a good tool to help us communicate. Before we speak or write, whether at home, online, in a committee meeting, talking to a neighbor, go through this mental process:
- Is what I am about to say true? (If there is any question, then don’t say it)
- Is it necessary?
- Does it glorify Christ?
- How can I say this in a helpful way?
- Is it helpful and encouraging (Ephesians 4:29)?
These questions are a starting point. As Christians, we have an opportunity to shine light into the darkness, and that begins with how we communicate. May we seek to glorify God with our words.