‘Smile!’, they say, or, ‘Cheer up, it may never happen!’
But there’s nothing wrong with being quiet sometimes. Perhaps we’re thinking, or even praying. Perhaps we have something to say and we’re considering our words carefully. No bad thing!
When our kids were young we used to tell them, ‘Before you say something, ask yourself: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?’
‘The wise in heart accept commands, but a chattering fool comes to ruin…When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise’ writes King Solomon in his Old Testament book of Proverbs 10 v 8 and 19.
Eminently practical New Testament writer James echoes that with, ‘Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,’ and then adds, ‘for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.’ (James 1 v 19-21)
In the 21st century we are surrounded by many words. There is much talk but little wisdom, and we wonder over the percentage of truth. Popular TV shows are filled with blasphemous mockery, obscene language and merciless criticism. And we wonder why society is violent and lawless, or why teachers have difficulty instilling respect among children!
As journalists, hungry for a story, bring another public figure or institution crashing down, is no one asking whether a society can afford the damage brought about by these styles of ‘free speech’? People have little faith in governments, banks, police, churches, the health service and increasingly news corporations. Do editors ask themselves who will suffer most now we no longer trust charities?
And who or what is there left to hold onto?
As a Christian I naturally turn to God and Jesus Christ for some kind of fixed reference in the current meltdown.
In the Gospels we find that Jesus spoke 100% truth, on occasions prophetically exposing hypocrisy and corruption. I read an interesting thing recently in the light of all the recent stories about sexual misconduct. None of Jesus’ enemies were women. Not one ever complained. They all loved Him for the respect and kindness He showed, with absolute purity!
But Jesus wasn’t out to merely tear down. He balanced His call to repentance with a message of hope based on relentless love and forgiveness. More, He made it possible with costly self-sacrificing action.
There is our example.
So first I suggest we be still. It’s ok to be quiet and think and by all means pray about things that matter.
There is a Judge before Whom we all must one day stand Who assesses the words and actions of everyone impartially.
So let’s speak when we’re ready, but only what’s true, with as much reverence, respect, wisdom and compassion as possible. And let’s match our words with positive action for real justice and charity with the kind of integrity of motive demonstrated by Jesus.
It’s difficult to completely trust very many these days, but He’s different.
He is the ‘Word’ that can save us.
Him we can trust.