Here are some exerpts from this morning’s reading from the letter of James:
“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For all of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle.
…So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits…
… For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue–a restless evil, full of deadly poison….
… With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so.“
Wow! This passage from the letter of James pulls no punches as it describes the human tongue as “a restless evil, full of deadly poison”! What are we to make of it? Most of the letter encourages the early Christians in their way of living. Today’s passage has a warning against slander and gossip, and the mistakes we all make when we speak without thinking.
All of us make many mistakes. Yes indeed. And it is so easy to speak without engaging our brains. We have all done it, and we hear it frequently – but when it happens to come from a leader or teacher, it has more serious consequences.
This week in our Parish Council meeting, we had some conversation about the need for everyone who volunteers in the parish to obtain Working with Children Cards, and also Police Checks. These things have become necessary because of new laws which have been introduced since the recent Royal Commission into Institutional Child Abuse. The requirement seems unnecessary to some people – of course it is! It is not about suspicion, mistrust, or lack of confidence. It would be totally unnecessary, if it weren’t for the fact that children have been harmed. That is the bottom line. We do not ever want that to happen again to any child. Perhaps it never would in our parish. Our people are all good, honest people who would never harm anyone.
But the fact is, children were harmed and have been harmed. Maybe not here, but in many places which considered themselves honest and safe. So, we continue to struggle with the whole unwieldy process, for that reason.
All our Op-Shop volunteers, our play-group helpers and the people on Parish Council, and those who help with fund-raising or other activities, are seen by the public as leaders in the church – in various degrees. Leaders have to be careful, as this reading tells us. It is not just about how we speak – it is also about how we are seen to behave, and the principles by which we are seen to live. When we comply with the law, we will be seen by others as standing by the principal of putting ourselves out, in order to protect the safety and well-being of others. That, I believe, is a very good thing.
So, what we say, and what we do, and what we are seen to be doing, are important to the health and well-being of our parish. Let’s see whether we can remember to engage our brains first, before we speak. I hope I can do it. It is not that easy!
It is about being kind, first. We don’t need to appear clever, or witty or flippant. We only need to be kind. In that way, we will show more fully that we are Christ’s followers.
Enjoy your week. God bless you all