Taming the Tongue, Turning the Heart

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life God desires.” James 1:19-20

I was angry.  I was deeply hurt.  Someone who did not know me said something hurtful and completely untrue about my character.  Not once.  But twice, at least I heard.  I prayed.  I lost sleep.  I kept telling myself ‘It does not matter, God knows.  We are not to live to please man, or woman.’

That was all true.  But, it still hurt, deeply.  I prayed, asking God to take away the pain, and to help me forgive.

Part of me was in such shock.  It was worse to me that the offender had been confronted before, professed to be a Christian, and yet, did it again.  It was made further worse that someone very close to me was also deeply hurt due to those comments, and hurt from the lack of amiability between myself and the offender.

I had read the book of James recently.  I kept reminding myself, ‘We need to slander no one.’  I finally turned to James, hoping to read those words, and find some semblance of peace.

I read the first chapter.  Verses 19-20 jumped out at me.  “Everyone should be… slow to anger.”  OK.  I realize that, but how?  After all, I am human.  I cried out to God at the perceived injustice of it all.

Then I learned a few things.  First, whenever I rehashed those hateful words, I would become angrier.  God tells us to control our thoughts:  “Whatever is true, whatever is nobel, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable,- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things.”  Philippians 4:8

Second, when it is hard to obey that command, I need to cling to the promise in  Philippians 1:13: “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.”

I cannot do it on my own.  I am human, that is right.  But, God is divine.  I can trust He will work a miracle on my heart, and allow me to follow Him.  Allow me to act accordingly, according to how He wants me to behave, not what my “justified” angry attitude wants.

Furthermore, James 1:26, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself, and his religion is worthless,” encouraged me to continue doing what I had been doing.  I had been careful not share the details of who said what with anyone.  I kept reminding myself not to slander anyone.  I kept telling myself, this is God’s child, too.

James 3:9 “With our tongues we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men who have been made in God’s likeness.”  Although it was difficult for me to imagine Christians hurting one another in such a manner, I know no one is perfect, and gossiping would just perpetuate the cycle.

My eyes fell on James 1:2 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”

OK.  Here I had a problem. I completely understood, and yet a part of me wanted to rebel.  (Ever been there?  Not a pretty sight!) I wanted to call attention to all the other trials I had faced in life and shout “Was that not enough?!?”

Well, life is not like that.  You might get a rest after one trial, but another will surely follow, sooner or later.  But no matter what type of trial, I can choose to be victorious.  Because I know God will carry me through.

That was when I really began to feel peace.  God knows my heart.  God knows my desire for peace.  And He knows all the efforts I have made in attempt to let peace rein.  He also knows when my heart is not right.  I am not perfect.  And I am learning that when pride rears its ugly head, I must fall to my knees and ask God to empty me of me, and fill me with His Holy Spirit; and to let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to Him.

Reflections:

1) When I learn that I have been the subject of gossip, how should I handle myself?

2) Is there anyone I need to forgive for that offense?  (And quite possibly, be prepared to forgive in the future?)

3) Is there anyone I need to seek forgiveness from, as I have spoken about them wrongly?

Note: This post was actually written about one year ago, stemming from real circumstances.  As much as we as Christians desire peace to rein, I am learning that sometimes all you can do is attempt to live peaceably with some people.  You can treat them how God wants you to treat them, but that kindness does not necessarily equate with trust.  The important piece is to forgive, even when no apology is made, and the offense is repeated again and again.

Without sharing details of you circumstances, I would love to hear how you have dealt with others gossiping about you, how God was able to bring something positive from that situation.  Because He can!

Please return on Monday, March 12, for the next post.

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