James 3: 1-12
Raise your hand when you recognize the song:
Now I know that I had to borrow, beg and steal and lie and cheat, Trying to keep you, trying to please you, ‘Cause being in love with your face ain’t cheap
Now I pity the fool that falls in love with you, well, I’ve got some news for you; Oh, I really hate you right now.
I see you drive around with the girl I love, and I’m like, Forget You; I guess the change in my pocket wasn’t enough, I’m like forget you, and forget her too.
This is a pop song by an artist named Cee Lo Green; if you watch TV talent competitions, he’s the African American guy with the bright glasses, on The Voice. It’s a song about after a breakup, when someone is angry, and someone is disappointed, and someone is hurt. Essentially, the singer has been jilted because the other guy can spend more on her.
(Note: I am not posting the video, because of the chance you might inadvertently receive the "other" version of the song, which has slightly different language. If you know the song, you know what I mean!)
Words can hurt, but words can also lift you up;
Baby I’m Amazed at the way you love me all the time/Maybe I’m afraid at the way I love you.
Baby I’m Amazed at the way you pulled me out of time, hung me on a line/Maybe I’m Amazed at the way I really need you.
Both of these songs are made up of words, words that come from our minds, and are physically shaped by our throats, our teeth, our lips, and yes, our tongues. It could be said that they are just words, yes, but what is intended by them is what causes that great forest fire.
Words, and the manner in how they have been presented in a film, made in California a year ago, with the trailer to the film languishing on YouTube for a year, when translated into Arabic, became powerful enough to kill four Americans in Benghazi last week. Others of various nationalities have died as well. The words denigrated the central figure of one of the major world religions. And whatever you may feel about Islam, whatever you may believe about Christianity in relation to Islam, I would hope that we could all agree, that nothing we say is worth the loss of life.
Words carry weight. How many different ways can you mean the phrase “I love you”? “I love you” to sons and daughters, “I love you” to siblings, “I love you” to parents and grandparents, “I love you” to spouses and lovers; “I love you” to friends whom you’ve known for 30-35 years or longer, and know every single skeleton in your closet. They all carry different connotations.
All of them are appropriate uses of those words. But they can still sometimes breed confusion. If you say that phrase to someone, and they mean it differently than you do, they everyone’s confused, twisted up. On the other hand, when you don’t say it, or show it, for a long time to someone, problems inevitably result.
What James is saying to us today is not for us to avoid speech; no vows of silence here today, thank you very much! But if the tongue is the rudder of a ship to use James’ image, then the brain and the soul is the pilot of the ship. And just like a pilot, we want to steer ourselves clear of dangers, shoals, sandbars, and other hazards, and arrive safely into harbor with just as many passengers and crew as what we left with.
The rudder can only be used for certain uses. It can’t see storms; it can’t see rocks, it can’t decide how to turn into the wind. Our brains and spirits are what are in control. It’s more than just speech, too; it is our brains and spirits that decide whether to post or pass forward inflammatory or hurtful words on the internet.
This is also controlling the tongue. We all have political opinions in this room, some of them strongly felt and held. If we are to air them all without thought or care, we’d all have black eyes! What keeps us civil in this room, this sanctuary, isn’t our tongues; it’s our brains. The tongue is the tool. This is what James means-drive the ship properly.
“Maybe I’m Amazed at the way I love you” is a much better thing to say than “Forget You”. Let us be people of “St.” Paul McCartney. While Cee Lo is talented, the ethic of that song is not how we should live.
Our spirits and our brains drive the rudders that are our tongues. Let us drive responsibly, in the name of Christ.
Pastor Drew, 9/16/12, Throop UMC