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Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Shut Up and Speak Grace

Perennially, the story of Elijah in hiding is one of my favorites.  I’m not sure what it says about me that I derive a sense of peace from a narrative about a man who is running for his life—from isolation and wind and earthquake and fire:   

I Kings 19:11-12, “He said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.

If I’m honest, of course, it is the “sound of sheer silence” and the journey that follows which actually draw me back to these words, time and time again.  Somehow, this underscores the point that it is neither the volume of words we speak nor the capacity for extensive dramatic flair that actually matter… quality over quantity…  but, what defines the quality of our speech?   

Ephesians 4:25 and 29 read, “So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another… Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear” (NRSV).

“Speak truth,” is fairly common jargon (if not practice) in Christian circles, but I hate how this phrase is often conflated with the concept of passing judgment.  What if speaking truth was more about being honest about who we are than putting others in their places?  What if speaking truth was more confessional than confrontational?  What if truth offered the very grace our people (that’s everybody… “members of one another”) need—building up by sharing our humanity as opposed to tearing down by spreading lies… about ourselves?

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