Our Speech Matters

Over the years as a spiritual leader I noticed believers were very careful about not cursing, but not so about hurtful and inflammatory speech. It seems with the advent of Facebook and other social media forums, speech has deteriorated. In fact, what one would never say in the presence of another, social media provides a no holds barred medium for nasty speech. This is especially true when discussing politics or political leaders.

For example, someone may criticize Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. Responses sometimes attack the original writer’s character or motives or accuse him/her of being led by Satan. This should not be. The Apostle Paul encouraged all “conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt.” It’s true that modern democracies protect freedom of speech, and almost anything can be said without legal repercussions. But that doesn’t mean that believers should feel free to say anything they want about or to another.

Speech has power. It has started wars. Hurtful speech has led to teenage suicides. Proverbs says “death and life are in the power of the tongue.” We should focus on speaking life to others. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t disagree. The issue, however, is how do we disagree. Can’t we show respect to one another even if we disagree vehemently? I used to work in the US Senate. Sometimes debates became ferocious. But the Senate maintained strict rules on decorum. A Senator may be debating a hotly contested issue, but for another Senator to interrupt him, the Senator must say, “would the distinguished Senator from [such and such state] yield?” In addition, the Senators could not address each other but rather the president of the Senate. These rules led to robust but honorable debates.

Shouldn’t this also characterize our discussions? Even in this newspaper, I have read things by writers that cause me to cringe. Sometimes, disparaging things are said directly about another writer. Aren’t we children of the light? Aren’t we called to a higher standard than even the US Senate? One of the most famous Biblical lines about speech is Paul’s call to “speak the truth in love.” I believe this means that we treat another person with respect and dignity even if we must say something that is difficult for the other to hear.

Please, for the sake of Messiah and His kingdom, be careful about what you say or write.