Bridling the Tongue (And a Tribute)

“If the church would stop talking for 30 days, we would have revival.” – D. L. Moody 

I came across this quote six or seven weeks ago, and it has not left me.  I have revisited the thought many times.  To what extent do I speak unnecessarily?  Am I disciplined in holding my tongue?  What poor contents of my heart are revealed by my words (Matthew 15:11)? Do the things I say edify and encourage?  To what extent are they just unneeded verbal detritus?   The result has been a decision to speak less…and to listen more.

I don’t mean an absence of conversation, as in a vow of silence, but some small (?) steps: not injecting comments if they’re not really needed, not repeating myself for the sake of emphasis or to make sure I’m heard, and not seeking the last word in casual discussion.  I do think there is value in allowing others to have the floor.  What I may feel is an obligatory verbal edit or counterpoint isn’t as necessary as I might want to think.

And then there’s another step for me in this process.  A good friend and former pastor of mine used to challenge us periodically to go seven days without complaining about anything, criticizing anyone, or defending ourselves (including defending our views) for any reason.  I don’t have to question whether that is a small step.  It isn’t. Try it.  I’ve tried several times and will try again in the days ahead.  I believe it’s a worthy challenge for obvious reasons; just because we have the freedom to say things doesn’t mean we always should.  I think Paul summed it up this way, “I have the right to do anything…but not everything is beneficial.  I have the right to do anything, but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Cor. 6:12)…including the tongue.    

James, the pastor of the First Church of Jerusalem and the brother of our Lord knew control of the tongue was/is essential to a healthy walk on the pathway of life.  He mentions it three different ways in his letter to the Church.  Here’s one example in his typical blunt way of communicating: “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongue deceive themselves and their religion is worthless” (James 1:26).  

In over 40 years, I’ve never heard GOD yell to get my attention…it’s always been with a quiet whisper; and it was only when I have been quiet that I have heard it.  It’s only when I am quiet that I can hear my family, friends and others share what’s on their hearts and minds.  Love of GOD and our neighbor can manifest itself in many ways.  Perhaps mastery of the tongue is one of those ways.

One final note on Martin Luther King, Jr:

MLK wasn’t a politician, although he operated amongst those for whom politics was all important.

MLK wasn’t an anarchist looking to overthrow authority by creating chaos and disruption, although the reactionary response of many to what he preached revealed itself in chaos and disruption.

MLK wasn’t a moralist, although his message was consistently moral.

MLK was GOD’s man at a point in history when enough was enough.  He was called to confront the social, political, economic and moral hypocrisy condoned and even promoted by the power structures of the nation and call it what it was.

MLK was called to be the point guard of a movement to end the subjugation and denigration of people without power by those with power.

MLK was sent to remind us that the commandment to love our neighbor didn’t have qualifications, like tests of ethnicity, color, country of origin, gender or religion. He was sent to remind us that it is impossible to love GOD without loving our neighbor.

MLK was not perfect; he had his flaws, and was criticized, perhaps rightly, along with much that was unmerited.  But as some wise soul has said, “The only people who are never criticized are the ones who do nothing.” (Source Unknown).

The man might be gone, but the message and the need for struggle remains alive…if we who are here will carry the torch.  May we live lives worthy of this calling.

© Byron L. Hannon, 2020.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted.

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