Monday, June 16, 2014

What Happens When What We Say is Wrong?

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Have you ever wondered if your words are having the right impact?  The answer to that might surprise us more often than it should.  Think about how often we say things without thinking.  We may joke about something without thinking about whether it may accidentally strike a nerve.  Or, because we're not paying attention to what we're saying, we may miscommunicate something we don't intend to.  There's a reason Ecclesiastes 5:2 (KJV) says, "Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.". Think with me on this.

Several things happened recently that got me thinking about that.  One was something that happened in relation to my function as a moderator of the Christian Bloggers community on Google+.  Google+ has gotten pretty aggressive about going after spammers.  Although I've seen some pretty dumb examples of real spam getting through in public communities.  As a result of having to fix a number posts in the community because they'd been mismarked as spam, I wrote a community post on how posts could come to be marked as possible spam.  And I included solutions to the things that the blogger could fix, themselves, before their Google+ promotional postings get noted as spam.

That post got some concerned questions, but mostly overwhelmingly positive response.  But a more private conversation with one individual didn't go quite so well, fueled by perceived wrongs on both sides.  The details or who was involved are far less important than the nature of the conversation. Neither one of us would be described as using grace words.  I know when someone intentionally starts pushing my buttons, I tend to defend my territory more than is good for maintaining the peace. When we have an emotional investment in the events, we tend to be more focused on the outcome and less concerned about the cost to those involved.  I seriously doubt that particular conversation represented who either one of us normally is.  For that, I'll publicly apologize.  And, hopefully, we can both go back to who we really are and God made us to be.

No matter what comes out of that, it's fact that we both used words that changed how that conversation ended.  But there was another, seemingly innocent spiel that could have eternal consequences.  There was a gentleman who was going on about why Christians shouldn't feel sorry for themselves, no matter what the earthly circumstances.  He described different aspects of his (and, hopefully, all of our) relationship with God.  We all said our amens.  But, being good with words, there was a phrase that later started raising red flags for me.  He said, "and I am going to live forever".  It's true and it talked about him, by having accepted salvation, having an eternal place in heaven with God.  All good, right?

As born again believers, we all understand everything he said.  And we understand it the way he intended it.  So, we rejoiced with him.  But maybe God was making me more sensitive to the words used, this time.  Think with me.  If you or I were non-Christian and read that, we might take it differently than a believer does.  The reality is that we're all going to live forever.  The difference is where, with Whom, and under what conditions.  There are many, including some who claim to be Christian, who would deny the existence of Hell.  If I wanted to deny Hell, a contrast of the believer living, compared with the potential of something else for those who don't believe, might fuel my argument.

I'm not trying to nitpick.  We all say things that aren't quite kosher.  We always will.  We're not perfect, only God is.  And we can't sit around, not saying anything because we're so busy deciphering every possible consequence of what we say.  But, when we're sending our words out in a format that can be revisited and relived, we need to put some consideration into how we say things -- as much as we consider what we say.

Proverbs 12:18 (KJV)  There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health.

Psalm 19:9b-11 (KJV)  the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.  More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.

It's not just what we say, but how we say it that can make a difference.

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