September 13, 2015 – Christian Education Text: James 3:1-12
Dear Friends in Christ,
On a windswept hill in an English country churchyard stands a drab, gray slate tombstone. The quaint stone bears an epitaph not easily seen unless you stoop over and look closely. The faint etchings read as follows: “Beneath this stone, a lump of clay, lies Arebella Young, Who on the twenty-fourth of May, began to hold her tongue.”
James writes in our text “no human being can tame the tongue.” (v. 8) Oh how we know that to be true! James through the Holy Spirit is about to put us in our place but we know that there is always good news on the other side. We are about to receive a . . .
When we hear the words “tongue lashing” we don’t anticipate with joy getting one of those from our teacher, or parent, or coach, or boss, or spouse. If you have ever received one you have probably walked away feeling pretty bad. That is what sin and the law can do to us. We are all guilty of abusing the tongue.
The Epistle confronts Christians of every age – and so also each one of us – with the inconsistencies between faith and actions. “How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.” (vs. 5b-6) Not one human being is innocent. We all know what we are capable of.
In our world it might be better to say our fingers do the talking. Look at all the texts, and the tweets, and the Facebook postings that people need to retract. How can we miss, young or old, that there are consequences to what you send over social media? Recently, a man hired to be the public address announcer for Nebraska football was fired for an inappropriate tweet. College students are losing scholarships. Politicians are being embarrassed for letting their words cause controversy. Stories like this come out each and every day. What happens is that we become self-righteous and we say that we don’t do that. C’mon now you don’t believe that, do you?
I grew up in a small town. I know that a little bit of gossip can set a whole village on fire. Vicious propaganda can fan international hatred into wars. Popular religious and doctrinal errors and teaching can rage like a Wild West wildfire and leave countless victims in their wake. The whole round of existence is set aflame by the evil tongue. Ouch – a tongue-lashing.
A recent “Dustin” comic strip shows the mother and daughter sitting on the couch and the daughter says, “My friends use snapchat so our texts disappear right away.” The mother responds, “In case you send messages and photos that are really embarrassing?” Daughter, “exactly.” The mother then goes on, “Actually, there’s a low-tech application that works even better for that.” The daughter excitedly says, “Really?” The mom then replies, “Yes, sweetheart, it’s called judgment.”
We could use a whole pile of judgment in our society. We always miss the end game when we let our tongues loose. So, is there nothing we can do? Are we doomed to live this life in a never-ending battle against a tongue that would just as soon destroy us, as it would honor the God of our salvation? In a way, yes, and in another, no. The battle rages on, but the war is already over. There is one who held his tongue and took our tongue lashing because only He could live the perfect life that we cannot.
That perfect one is our Savior Jesus Christ. He lived and died and rose again because our tongues are out of control. He bridled his tongue even in the face of death so that we might receive his righteousness and He now lives in us. Christians possess the grace of God, which is a divine power that is able to control the tongue.
In Baptism, that fire that burned from your tongue was extinguished. The Word of God that you hear in worship, in Adult Bible Study, in Sunday School, in Small Group Bible Study fills your mind and your heart with the pure truth from God. That Word replaces all of the “other words” and gives your tongue something righteous to speak. As you receive the body and blood of Christ under the bread and the wine, the wounds inflicted on you by the things you say are healed.
Yes, our Savior took quite a tongue lashing for you and I. The vile things thrown his way as He journeyed to the cross. Imagine social media if it was around during the time of Jesus. Do we really need to imagine? The hatred for Christ and His Word are all around us. Christians here and around the world take a tongue lashing or worse for their beliefs. But never forget the lashes that tore at the skin of Jesus. The words of the soldiers as He died on the cross. The language spoken that His death was it.
Except, He could not be kept silent. He had a resurrection promise that his followers shouted to the world, “He Has Risen! He Has Risen Indeed?” Jesus spoke his victory over Satan, and hell, and death. Oh, the tongue lashing the devil took that day. Oh, the tongue-lashing he will take on the Last Day when Jesus returns with the beautiful sound of triumph.
Christ sets us free from bondage to the devil and sin so that we have something new to say: “O Lord, open my lips and my mouth will declare your praise.” (Ps. 51:15)