Watch What you Are saying . and Why You’re Saying It

Blind Faith (No. 42, 2016)
Weekly Devotional for October 20, 2016
Watch What you Are saying . and Why You’re Saying It

By the time most readers will receive this Blind Faith the third
and last U.S. presidential candidates’ debate will be past. WHEW! This
presidential campaign has been a travesty of civility, sound reason, and
integrity. I continue to maintain that these devotionals purposely keep
partisan politics at arm’s length. Today I am being an equal opportunity
critic of candidates, supporters, media, and the whole lot of people who
have sullied the goodness of the American spirit by spewing awful (or is it
offal?) verbiage about opposing candidates and their partisans. Less than
three weeks remain before voting day, November 8. Most commentators warn
that the public may not have seen or heard the worst yet.

For all the rhetorical invocations of Judeo-Christian values
enshrined in the foundation of American society, far too little attention is
given to what those values actually are. Hebrew scripture has offered 3,000
years of sound guidance for what our words reveal about our deepest
dispositions and how we must guard our expressions of them. The principles
are succinct, direct, and applicable to every facet of life. Solomon
displayed a larger-than-life personality in many ways, but he also
recognized the great value of careful, graceful, measured expression of
oneself. Ponder the nuances brought out in these contemporary versions of
that wise man’s thoughts:

Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of
24 Put away from you a deceitful (lying, misleading) mouth, And put devious
lips far from you.
25 Let your eyes look directly ahead [toward the path of moral courage] And
let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you [toward the path of
26 Consider well and watch carefully the path of your feet, And all your
ways will be steadfast and sure.
27 Do not turn away to the right nor to the left [where evil may lurk]; Turn
your foot from [the path of] evil.
(Proverbs 4:23-27 AMP)

Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts.
Don’t talk out of both sides of your mouth; avoid careless banter, white
lies, and gossip.
Keep your eyes straight ahead; ignore all sideshow distractions.
Watch your step, and the road will stretch out smooth before you.
Look neither right nor left; leave evil in the dust.
(Proverbs 4:23-27 MSG)

Those principles would greatly enhance anyone’s communication in every
context. Most political statements fall abysmally short of these ideals.

Unfortunately, people of faith perpetually fall into the mire of
language that is demeaning both to the speaker and to whoever may be spoken
about or addressed. Solomon’s father, David, was a master of palace
intrigue. He failed many times to keep his words and actions consistent with
the heartfelt faith in God he demonstrated at other times and expressed
magnificently in song. David summarized the guiding principle that certainly
should govern all speech uttered by a person of faith:

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to
you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalms 19:14 NRSV)

Numerous writers have altered the proverb, “The eyes are windows to the
soul” to observe, “Words are windows to the soul.” Jesus put it simply: “Out
of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. (Matthew 12:34 NIV) If you
want to gauge a person’s heart, listen to what they say and how they say it
across the board, both in public pronouncements and in candid conversations.

What do these principles mean for people of faith in the waning
days of presidential politics in the U.S. and especially beyond this
ghastly time when regular life returns? First, we can pray that the words of
Proverbs 4 and Psalm 19 would become evident in the words of the candidates,
their surrogates, and their supporters. Enough venom, already! It might take
a miracle, but we can still pray for it!

Second, we can internalize these words of scripture to govern
how we speak about the candidates. Whether we are speaking about the
candidate we favor or castigating the opposition, our speech should conform
to these clear standards. When we are talking about other people who support
our candidate or the opposing one, we need to practice the same grace. When
we engage in conversations about matters other than the political quagmire,
what we say and why we say things reflects our core values and faith. Words
are windows to the soul.

See what you can do about the tone of language around you during
the next couple of weeks. Resolve to fill your words with God’s grace in
this present time and in all days to come.

J. Edward Culpepper

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