- Together Apart
- Next Gen
Since the country went into lockdown on 23rd March, I think we can all admit that we’ve seen some of the very best of human nature on show. The way that the nation has honoured and supported, thanked and clapped our Key Workers has been really touching. The rainbows in the windows, the fundraising that’s taken place for the NHS and the kindness and appreciation shown towards those working on the front line in this pandemic has been so wonderful to see. What people are saying about the key workers in this crisis has been so encouraging and uplifting to hear. I’m sure it makes God so happy.
On the other hand, it’s been an interesting week for the UK over the past 4 or 5 days. The easing of the lockdown, combined with the announcement that English schools might be reopening on 1st June has caused a huge and at times, rather volatile debate. The Prime Minister has been satirised and criticised for his apparent lack of clarity. And the tone that this debate has started to take is quite different to the kindness we’ve seen expressed towards key workers througout this pandemic.
It seems there are very differing opinions about just how “un-locked down” we should be and the schools reopening has been the most volatile part of the argument. In particular, disagreements prevail about whether or not schools will be safe enough places for both teachers, support staff and children to be. It seems the government think one thing and the teaching and medical unions think another and then press have joined in to fuel the argument. Some of the things that have been said are just horrible. Some newspapers are claiming that teachers are just being lazy by not wanting to go back to work. Other newspapers are claiming that teachers are desperate to go back to work but are being held back from teaching our kids by militant unions that just want to pick a fight.
And this hugely emotive debate has bubbled over on to social media, as it so often does. My news feed has been filled with deeply passionate posts from people on both sides of the debate, who both think they’re right. But often, the things people write in posts, shares and comments to argue their case can and has caused real hurt to people on both sides of the debate and it’s highlighted just how damaging throw away comments can be.
The tongue is physically one of the weakest muscles in the body and yet, the words it’s able to create can cause way more damage than a physical punch or kick or shove can. The tongue is powerful. The tongue is capable of creating immense good or incredible destruction.
It’s no surprise then, that the Bible talks about the tongue over 100 times. Perhaps one of the most famous references to the tongue is found in the book of Proverbs, chapter 18:21.
“The tongue has the power of life and death and those who love it will eat it’s fruit.”
This short but beautiful proverb contains a profound key to living a hope-filled life. It basically heeds us to “watch what we say” and understand the power of our words. What we say and what we contribute in conversations and discussions can bring either life or death to someone else’s self-esteem and self-worth.
It says earlier on in the books of Proverbs in chapter 15:4 that a “perverse tongue crushes the spirit”.
Social media is an interesting animal. People will say things on social media that I honestly don’t think they’d dream of saying to someone’s face. The screen and the text distances us from the people we’re talking to or the people we’re talking about and if we’re not careful, our words and opinions and comments can quickly create real negativity and real damage to others.
When I was growing up, my Mom used to say a lovely little phrase to me that I’ve never forgotten and it was this: “if you can’t think of something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
So this is a challenge to us all this morning. As the coronavirus lock down continues to ease and changes continue to made to policy and the way we live our lives, be careful how you comment publicly about those changes. If you have a habit of losing control of your tongue – and we all do it at times – whether to pass judgement on something opinion, or try to prove our own point, or brag about our achievements, ask the Lord to show you whether your words are going to bring life or death to someone. And if you think the latter is true, ask God to help you to be silent.
The proverb says that those who love the tongue will eat its fruit. In other words, we all eat the fruit that our words create – whether bitter or sweet. Our words either make us friends or enemies. They either build us up or drag us down. And as Christians, made in the image of God, our words, like His, have the potential to breathe such life into this dark situation. So let’s make sure that’s exactly what they do.
Be mindful of your tongue today. Be kind in what you say to others. And here’s a bit of really practical advice: if you can’t think of anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Instead, turn your frustrations, even the legitimate ones, into prayers, asking God to help you to bring life through your contributions to this crazy situation.