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 a reminder of how, small though it is, the tongue can determine the direction of our lives … like a rudder in the sea of our lives the power of words is immense. There is a song in the charts at the moment which I think is probably built on the words of James 2000 years ago because its chorus is ..
Like a small boat on the ocean … Sending big waves into motion
Like how a single word …. Can make a heart open
I might only have one match … But I can make an explosion
This fact is something we are not that 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 our children from a very young age .. sticks and stones ..
Whilst we say this with the best intentions but it is not true is it .. in truth the wounds made by words often last much longer than the wounds made by sticks. 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 James in the passages this morning remind us that we are accountable for what we do with our tongue. That when we say something out loud it becomes a powerful force in the world. The words of Peter to Jesus were one of the greatest challenges Jesus faced .. perhaps more so than the blows of the Roman soldiers.. when someone close to us like Peter was to Jesus it touches our heart, soul and mind .. the whole of the Gospel passage reminds us that we care about what those closest to us think and say … who do you say I am Jesus asks his closest friends .. perhaps in an attempt to find the strength to carry on in the face of challenge and scorn.
Peter’s confession that Jesus was His Messiah, His Saviour, the One He had been waiting for allowed Jesus to continue to face the challenges of others …
are we those who speak words of love and encouragement and truth to those closest to us .. friends and family members .. ..do we speak words of affirmation of forgiveness or encouragement that 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.
or are we those who James is speaking to in his reminder that we all have the power to bind someone with pain and guilt for a lifetime when we speak a harsh or mean word .. what an immense and terrible power.
Let us in the church be a different kind of people to the world around us.Let us guard our tongues to prevent the kind of waves being set in motion that cause storms in people’s lives .. let us build one another up and not tear down .. and in doing so let us release captives from fear and open the gates of freedom through words of peace and encouragement and love and truth. Let us always build and not tear down the Church of God in the words that we speak to one another.