Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile. Matthew 15:17-20
If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself undefiled by the world. James 1:26-27
I love the Epistle of James. I know that so great a person as Martin Luther called it “an epistle of straw” and felt that it had no place in the Christian canon. But I love it in spite of the fact (and perhaps because of the fact) that it convicts me in many ways and reminds me that I need to keep my feet on the path where Jesus Christ leads us.
Over the past couple of weeks I have watched the political conventions. I am something of a news junkie, and love to watch the fray of politics. But both conventions have left me uneasy, and seriously considering a move to Canada – although I am not sure this Southern girl could take their winters. I mourn the loss of reasoned discourse and civil disagreements over platforms and policies. It seems that both conventions were basically compendiums of name calling and “holier than thou” declarations. Both left me wanting to shout at the TV screen the words my Mama Tucker would say to me when my words got unkind or exaggerated toward others: “Now don’t be ugly.” She was not referring to my physical appearance, but to the words that fell from my lips. It was a reminder that not only should I bridle my tongue, but also examine my heart and check on why I would ever even think to say such a thing.
I feel like somebody’s grandmother ought to step in and admonish our political leaders on both sides not to act ugly. And since this is not likely to happen any time soon, I think it might behoove us, myself chief among us, all to remember that our faith is shown to the world by what we say and what we do. If we “act ugly,” then the world may think that our faith is one of judgment and unkindness. If we give in to the temptation to become more like the world and allow words of animosity and ridicule and aversion to come from our mouths, then what does that tell the world about our hearts?
Our Lord is all about love; loving our enemies and doing good to those that harm us. When I was a youth, in the days when there was MYF every Sunday afternoon, one of the questions we were asked each week was, “How have you shown that you are a Christian this week?” And often it was followed by, “If you were put on trial today for being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you?” These questions may seem a bit corny in our sophisticated age, but I still remember them. Perhaps we ought all to ask ourselves more frequently how we have demonstrated the love of Jesus Christ lately?
The Church Father, Tertullian (155-220 CE), wrote, “ ‘Look,’ they say, ‘how they (Christians) love one another’ (for they themselves hate one another).”
Now let’s ask ourselves this week, at the close of the day, how have I demonstrated the love of Jesus Christ in the world this day. If someone is judging what Christians are by what they see in me, what will they think? Something to ponder in this world of pandemics, earthquakes, fires, hurricanes, and political goings on.
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord, We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord, and they pray that all unity will one day be restored. And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love.
We will work with each other, we will work side by side, We will work with each other, we will work side by side, And we’ll guard each one’s dignity and save each one’s pride. And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love.
Gracious Lord, help us to walk in the pathways you call us to walk. May we live our lives so full of your love and grace that we will please you in our daily lives. Amen.
Pastor Rachel Moser