Safe On Our Lips

In one for-your-pleasure email I received, it began like so:
“A group of professionals posed this question to a group of 4 to 8-year-olds, `What does love mean?'”
To me, the most profound answer came from Billy who reportedly
answered, “When someone loves you, they say your name different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth.” Out of the mouth babes. I’m sure we all know some adults who could glean from this wisdom.
Ideally, the Church is to be a haven from the abuses of the world, especially the abuses of the tongue. However, the reality is we’re not quite there. Somehow gossip, criticism, and careless speech have found their way into the pew, the functions, the meetings – there doesn’t seem to be a place where the wagging tongue hasn’t visited.
With yak attacks and broken confidences, no wonder why our faith seems so unappealing. No wonder why unbelievers walk away unimpressed. No wonder why members leave congregations disenchanted. We’re shouting down more than the walls of Jericho, we’re shouting down hearts and members of our own Body.
One night, I invited a friend to dinner that I knew wasn’t
congregating. With tears, Laura* confessed, “I don’t want to go to church. For what? So I can be talked about? Why can’t they come to me if there’s a problem? But no, all they do is talk about me behind my back, and that hurts. And it’s not just the
members, it’s the big people. It’s the people who serve in the
ministry.” The funny thing about gossip is that just as there are people who are faithful to practice it, there are people who are faithful to make sure you know you’re the inspiration of it.
Gossipers gossip about those in their circles that gossip.
Laura’s sentiments are common, and her pain is very real. She isn’t experiencing the faithful wounds of friends as spoken of in Proverbs 27:6. We’re speaking of the backbiting and evil whispers mentioned in II Corinthians 12:20 – the state by which we shouldn’t be found when our Lord and Savior returns to find His blameless bride.
It is by the design of our Creator that we have death and life in the power of our tongue (Proverbs 18:21). He also gave us the right to bless and to curse. However, too often we are giving life to what needs death, and giving death to what needs life. We bless what is to be cursed, and curse what is to be blessed. We forget to hate the sin and not the sinner. We short-suffer with those less mature than ourselves. Our mouth and tongue are in desperate need of godly discipline.
Maybe Billy once heard that though we speak with the tongues of men and angels and ha! ve not love, we have become like a clanging cymbal (I Corinthians 13:1). People’s names are to be safe on our lips. Who is safe in yours? Or should the question be: Who isn’t?

* Name changed to protect identity.
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