Have you ever heard anyone say (with a great deal of pride): “Well, you know me… I just speak my mind.”
They are the kind of folks who are quick to tell you what they are thinking… and what you should be thinking, as well. They are lightning fast in giving you a piece of their mind (and most often, their words tell everyone that they need to be keeping all the pieces they can!).
Of these folks, I believe it was Abraham Lincoln who gave some awesome advice:
I have noticed (as a general observation about our current culture) that so many people are the exact opposite of what James admonishes. Most are slow to listen, quick to speak, and ultra-quick to get angry. People get bent out of shape about the strangest (and the most insignificant) things.
It sure appears to me that in a culture that seems intent on not offending anyone – that there are more offended people than ever. You can’t turn on the TV news without seeing coverage of protests somewhere about something – sometimes it honestly looks like people just want to be angry about something… anything.
Is there a time to speak up (even protest)? Certainly. There is a time and a place for everything. If there are issues of concern, the concerned should speak up. This is right and proper.
But know your cause. Understand your issue. And try your best to understand the other person’s issues as well. Ignorance, even when shouted loudly… is still just ignorance.
We would all do well to get back to heeding James’ advice.
We should try our level best to understand what someone may be saying – we should major in really listening (with an intent to truly grasp what someone may be thinking, beyond their words).
We should be slow to speak. “He who restrains his lips is wise.” (Prov. 19:10b) The idea of being “slow to speak” is not about talking slowly (although that may be helpful) but to take our time and think before we speak. The original language for this word “slow” means “to take time, to be deliberate.” Think how much more readily our issues could be resolved if both sides were never in a hurry to voice their own “pet opinions” on any particular matter.
And lastly, we should be slow to anger. Really slow. This is the hard one. Because any time someone gets adamant about an issue to which we object… we don’t want to listen, we don’t want to understand, we don’t even want to work things out – we just want to put our opponent in his/her place.
Solomon’s wisdom applies big-time: “He who is slow to anger has great understanding, But he who is quick-tempered exalts folly…” (Prov. 14:29; see also 16:32; 17:27)
No one ever wins a shouting match.
I think it is time for Christians to step to the forefront in addressing the issues of our culture. But not in the way in which we normally do (Jump in, denigrate people’s opposing views, tell them to get their act together… or else! And jump out).
Jesus said something we should begin to take to heart…
Christians alone have the model for how to address the issues of our society — and bring the peace of the Prince of Peace to people’s lives. James gave it to us – as the way in which we should live.
And as we do, we will be reflecting the One Who enables us to live that way – and they will look at us (as God’s children) and see HIM more clearly.