My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. --James 1:19-20
When will I ever get it right?
A few days ago I sat in a meeting and stayed quiet while a brother argued things I not only deeply disagreed with, but that I thought were racist. I felt the redness creeping into my face, so I stayed quiet. I thought I would be able to generate a lot of heat, but probably very little light. When the meeting was over, I sat in my office and castigated myself for my lack of response.
Tonight a well-meaning woman upbraided our entire church for not having an evangelistic heart for the world. Even though I think her comments were exaggerated but not wrong, I opposed her because it struck me she was lambasting people I deeply respect and love. Yet she is one of those people I deeply respect and love. Why didn't I react the way I did in the prior meeting? Why didn't I have the same impulse to be quiet and let the confrontation play out? Now I sit in my office and castigate myself for my lack of grace toward someone who was simply leveling a criticism at us that I myself have made in the past. So why did I oppose her?
No it's not as simple as one was a man and one was a woman. I have had these second thoughts all my life and have carefully considered whether I give more deference to male/female, young/old, conservative/progressive, etc., and I honestly see no pattern. I am simply flopping one way or the other, seemingly without any predictable guidance. I actually think the biggest predictor is probably the stress level under which I was operating at the time, but even that correlation is weak.
Guarding the tongue. It's hard for all of us, but I am employed as a minister who speaks at least weekly and often publicly. I talk when I shouldn't. I'm quiet when I should talk. When I do talk, I often say the wrong things.
The solution that seems to present itself to me is to remain quiet until I learn to handle my tongue, but I fear I will never be engaged in ministry at all if I wait that long! So I apologize and move ahead as best I can, but I do pray that God will tame what I find untamable.
There's no happy ending to this one. I hope I haven't said too much ... (or not enough?)
Grace and Shalom.