Two families in New York City are grappling with the power of words this morning. For the past few weeks citizens have been protesting police actions which resulted in the deaths of black men. Sometimes those protests turned nasty and resulted in looting and lawlessness on a grand scale. The message portrayed in the media was often one of anger and even hatred for police and law enforcement officials. Now two officers are dead as a direct result of the protesters chants and actions.
Words are the tools we use to convey ideas. The abstract concepts in our head must be formed into words so that we can communicate with others. The only way you can know what I am thinking is if I tell you my thoughts. Even my actions may be misleading. But clear words allow you to understand my thinking.
“Angry words, O let them never from the tongue unbridled slip”
The old hymn “Angry Words” was penned by Horatio Palmer and appeared first in a hymnal around 1860. Palmer, a musician best known for “Yield not to Temptation,” understood the power of the spoken word.
Canadian Educator Laurence Peter opined “speak when you’re angry and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.”
Chinese philosopher Confucius offered, “When anger rises, think of the consequences.”
All are good and noble thoughts but the Bible is far better.
“A hot tempered man stirs up strife but he who is slow to anger quiets contention” (Proverbs 15:18).
“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11)
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19, 20)
“it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person” (Matthew 15:11)
“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (James 1:26)
And one more, with a warning:
“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36)
The events of the last few weeks seem so far away from the Eastern Shore. Ferguson, Missouri and New York City are places that usually have little impact on our lives. But words are not weakened by distance. Let us heed Biblical guidance on our speech and emotions. Let us be people who speak graciously and mercifully. Let our voice be that of our Lord. For just a words can have disastrous consequences they can also produce joy, peace and happiness. How will you use your words today?