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Sometimes words leak out of our mouths, never to be un-heard. 

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1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, 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 things.  How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. 13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. – James 3:1-14


We don’t get to choose our family.  What we see is what we get – struggles and all.  I’m sure there were, and are, times where we wish we had a different family, but that’s not how it works.  We have to take them and they have to take us.  And there are times in family dynamics where we say and do things reflecting our frustrations. It’s sometimes painful and causes deep, long-lasting wounds and scars. Deep-seated anxiety, anger, hate, and other destructive emotions are the product. If left un-lanced, seemingly irreparable relational harm can result.

Now, Peter tells us as followers of Christ, we’re a chosen people, a holy nation, for God’s own possession (1 Peter 2:9-10).  Reflecting on these words can bring a weight with them.  We’re God’s people.  He’s selected us.  Just like God chose the Israelites, God has chosen us.  This makes us all family.  And, just as in our own families we experience the darts of disdain, the same can happen in our God-chosen family without thought.  These aren’t literal darts, but they’re words we say to each other, sometimes purposefully.  In James 3:1-14, James is writing about the cause of this strife, the tongue, and despite its diminutive size, it has great impact on those around us.

It’s an amazing thing to be in a conversation with someone and have words pass through the mind that aren’t edifying or helpful.  Sometimes those words leak out of our mouths, never to be un-heard.  We’ve all done this to our earthly families and to our God-chosen family. All of us, at some point, have heard and said awful things to each other. The tongue and the sin behind it, is destructive and scarring.  Reread the passage in James, and allow the words to sink in.  Let moments come to mind where you’ve said or heard unkind words, intended or not intended.  If you’ve said them, seek forgiveness from those you’ve hurt.  If you’ve been hurt by words, forgive those who’ve said them.

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By Rich Obrecht

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