Earlier this week I had to drive to Austin, Texas. From where we live, it’s about a 7 hour drive - so in two days, I drove 14 hours. To keep myself entertained, I listened to talk radio. I haven’t listened to talk radio in a long time, so I was curious to see what the hot topic of the day was going to be.
I’m not sure why I wondered that, because as soon as I turned the radio on, I was blasted with non-stop talk about the presidential election. And after just a few minutes of listening, I was reminded again how seriously people take politics. That in and of itself is not a bad thing - the bad part comes with how most people tend to treat folks who don’t agree with them. As I listened, I was treated to people yelling at each other, using rude and derogatory terms to describe the candidate they didn’t like, and there was even a little bit of profanity thrown in for good measure.
As I turned the radio off, I couldn’t help remember what my mom told me one time in high school when she overheard me verbally trashing someone who didn’t have the same opinion as I had. She said, “I’ve never been good at math, but here’s a little equation I like to keep in mind: right + rude = wrong.” It was a clever statement, and it’s one that has come back to me many times over the years as I have been ready to verbally smash somebody who I thought was wrong. But that formula reminds me that, even if we're right, it won't matter if we're rude about it - because nobody’s going to care what we have to say!
But for Christians, there’s an even bigger reason why we should stay away from being rude with our words - and it’s found in Proverbs 15:4, which says: “Gentle words are a tree of life; a harsh tongue crushes the spirit." This verse reminds us that we always have a choice how we speak to somebody - and God wants us to choose words that are gentle, and life-giving.
Most of us have discovered how deeply hurtful words can wound. We can have scars from words that last for years - if not a lifetime. Those scars affect how we see ourselves, and our ability to do things. And I’ve even seen those scars keep people from being able to fully accept God’s grace, as well as fully live for Him. That’s one of the many reasons the Bible tells us to be gentle with our words. God wants His children to speak words of life and health and hope into people’s lives - even when it comes to the subject of presidential elections.
So today, let’s be careful about the words we use. Let’s keep from words that are harsh and full of judgement. Instead, let’s allow the Holy Spirit to give us words that heal and help and build each other up.