Five Guidelines for Controlling the Tongue to Safeguard Church Unity
Few things stand to jeopardize our churches’ treasured oneness than our own runaway tongues. Thus the poet of sacred text prays, Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips (Psalm 141:3)!
They most certainly do. Anyone aspiring to a do-your-best standard of peacemaking in his church will embrace these five principles from Scripture which can effectively set a guard over our tongues and govern our words:
One, respect them accordingly. Since Prov. 18:21 is true–Death and life are in the power of the tongue, treat your words with enormous respect. They can do great good. They can do enormous harm. At our Idaho place, I keep a variety of weapons–largely for hunting purposes. For obvious reasons, they command my complete respect every time I handle them. Treat your words with the same reverence.
Two, suspect them ruthlessly. James 3:8 warns, No human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. Read the rest of the chapter for more plain talk about the Mission Impossible that is controlling our words. That reality should sober us. Assume the worst about your speech right out of the gate. It will help check your words constructively before you let them fly.
Three, limit them considerably. The wisdom writer helps us again. When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent (Prov. 10:19). Remember this rule of thumb–or should I say tongue?: the greater the number of words we speak, the greater the potential for sins we commit. James gets this too. Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger (James 1:19). Perhaps overused but nonetheless true: God gave us two ears and just one mouth for a reason.
Four, choose them strategically. This can mean a lot of things. At the very least consider these guidelines. Always speak the truth, but do it in love (Eph. 4:15). Ask yourself before you speak, Will this build up and give grace or corrupt and tear down (Eph. 4:29). While never lacking graciousness in your word choices, recognize that love at times dictates sanctified sternness. We see this all over Paul’s letters. While reading one of them recently, I was struck by his counsel to a pastor on Crete to rebuke them sharply (Titus 1:13). Their nasty habits required tough love for their own salvation good.
Five, keep them confidentially. Among the seven things God hates (Prov. 6:16-19), Solomon lists last, one who sows discord among brothers. Alexander Strauch does not overstate the case when he writes:
Gossip, or talebearing, is one of the common sins of discord. . . . Like a dreadful, contagious disease, it poisons people’s minds and creates chaos and misinformation. it is an ugly vice that drives people apart and destroys peace (If You Bite & Devour One Another, 71).
Keep confidences religiously!
The Psalmist sets us the example. Pray often for the Lord to act as guardian of your tongue and watchman over your words. Pray the same for the rest of the people in your congregation. Set a guard where it matters most, my dear fellow guardian of your church’s peace.
Question: What other texts have helped you in your attempts to tame your tongue? You can leave your comment here.