Romans 10v5-15 +Matthew 16 v13-20
The readings today remind us of the importance of what we say … it is an important theme of Christian living. Again and again in the Bible we are reminded that the tongue is the most powerful of all the members of the body. In the book of James we have the best reminder of how small though it is the tongue can determine the direction of our lives … James writes ..
Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check. 3 (It is like this ) .. if we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies. 4 Or look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire … every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, 8 but no one can tame the tongue
This is something we are not good at acknowledging in our culture. In fact we have set ourselves up to deny this truth in many ways with one of the most famous of our sayings which we teach children from a very young age .. Sticks and Stones ..
Whilst we say this with the best of intentions but it undermines what we know to be true .. that in fact the wounds made by words often last much longer than the wounds made by sticks. Neither are pleasant of course … but I am sure there are things said to you years ago .. maybe decades which you still hear loud and clear most days!! The pain of such wounding words is far more than any flesh wound from years ago in most cases.
Both Jesus and Paul in the passages this morning remind us of what James says that we are accountable for what we do with our tongue. Paul links it to the very matter of salvation .. that it is through what we say that we find our salvation … I wonder what that might mean?? The idea that through belief we are justified and through proclamation we are saved. I think perhaps what it means is that whilst belief in God allows us some freedom it is not fully realised until we also confess such belief out loud.
It is again a basic principle that we are learning in our world is it not .. that to talk about things is so important. If we internalise things it frustrates us and can even make us ill .. this is what we know about grief and anger .. how much more should we talk about with our mouths what we believe in our hearts that we might have a healthy faith and good community in the church. Talk to one another and others about your faith .. it is in such confession that we find full salvation. This once again goes against all we are taught in our culture … don’t talk about politics or religion. It’s terrible advice just like the sticks and stones message. It’s not true .. talk about God and the state of the nation .. but do so with grace and respect and tolerance.
Peter confessed with his mouth that Jesus was His Messiah, His Saviour, the One He had been waiting for .. and he was told he had the keys of heaven and could mind and free people on earth. What on earth might that mean?
I wonder if at the heart of this statement is the recognition that we all have the power to bind and release people in this world. With a harsh word we can bind someone with pain and guilt for a lifetime .. what an immense and terrible power. But be encouraged .. with a word of affirmation of forgiveness or encouragement we can release people for eternity .. the words ‘I forgive you’ can in fact release captives and throw open the doors of life again for those in pain or guilt. They are the words Jesus spoke about us on the cross …’I forgive you’ … this is the freedom we can all know and the words with make Jesus our Saviour.
Let us be a different kind of people to the world around us.Let us guard our tongues and set a watch over our lips as the Psalmist says .. let us build one another up and not tear down .. and in doing so let us release the captives and build the Church of God.