In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire.” (James 3:5, NLT)
Great harm is done to the Church when we speak carelessly. There is no greater evidence for this than the “Christian” voices that so often inhabit social media. “Grand speeches” are those opinions which we hold in such esteem. Too many are ever ready to anathema those with whom they disagree. Too quickly do they ascribe heresy to honest disagreement. Too easily do they impute others with bad intentions. As a result, tragic fires constantly break out in the Church consuming all the oxygen.
Wise words by contrast do not strike out recklessly. Rather than wound, they seek to bring healing: “Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing.” (Proverbs 12:18, NLT) The godly speak thoughtfully, hearing others out fully, holding their anger in check, and then speak graciously. Paul tells us to “...pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another.” (Romans 14:19, CSB) And “let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” (Ephesians 4:29, NLT)
Wisdom speaks truth in love. It shows respect through careful listening. It never demeans. It ever looks for areas of agreement. Where heresy or immorality must be called out, it will unhesitatingly do so. But even here it seeks the good of the other and of Christ’s Church. Carefully listen to the words of James: “My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back from wandering will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.” (James 5:19–20, NLT)
We live in a difficult time and place. Once faithful and fruitful traditions have abandoned the faith and embraced heresy and immorality. The voice of the Church must confront these unambiguously. But our words and actions must always seek repentance and reconciliation. Let our words be carefully formed. Let them be lovingly spoken. Speak God’s word in full submission to Him as empowered of the Holy Spirit.
Lively debate among faithful Christians on secondary issues is a good thing. Let us hear one another out; let us clearly communicate where we stand. But let us speak with humility, respect, and love.
“…Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.” (Matthew 12:25, NRSV)