We live in very divisive times. It seems that we as a society have lost what it means to be neighborly and agreeable. If there is the slightest disagreement on issues or worldview, there is an immediate assumption that the person is an enemy. We see it every day in the headlines. This division is apparent on news programs, in politics, even in and quite possibly, especially, in the church. People are vocal about it. Disagreement shows up in social media, sometimes in the most vile of terms. Then when the offender is called out on their rant, they try to say they didn’t mean it the way it came across. But words have meaning, and we as followers of Christ must weigh them with care.
In Luke 6:45, the Lord said, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth that which is evil; for of the abundance of his heart his mouth speaks.” Leviticus discusses a leprosy-like condition called tzara’at. Those who spoke evil of another would break out in tzara’at. They had to go to the priest for repentance and healing. Called lashon hara, meaning “evil tongue,” speaking evil of someone, slandering them, libeling them, passing gossip, were all forbidden by the Lord God. Moses, when he told God that the people wouldn’t believe that God had sent him, turned white with tzara’at for speaking evil about God’s people. Miriam was also stricken with tzara’at when she spoke critically of Moses. This is very serious, especially for leaders.
We are all leaders and priests as believers in Christ. As in 1 Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people: that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Verse 12 says, “Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.” We, therefore are held to a higher standard and what we speak and say, or how we say it, is part of our accountability to God. Proverbs 18:21 says that death and life are in the power of the tongue. James writes that the tongue is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. He draws on the words of Christ about not having bitter and envying strife in our heart resulting in evil speech.
There is a fine line between speaking evil and holding accountability. People attack us, call us names, label us with the worst of their own hearts’ intent. They accuse us of what is actually in their own heart. They lie. They demean. They bully. They call evil good and good evil. So how are we supposed to stand fast and overcome evil with good? It starts with our speech. It’s easy to get angry. It’s not so easy to respond in love. Yes, we can comment on issues and positions and constructively criticize. But personal attacks that offer no value other than making us feel better are not where a royal priesthood should go. Avoid anger. Educate. Meet emotional accusations with truth in love. As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:20 that “we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.” Let the abundance of your heart be shown.