Normally a Church has to concentrate on defenses against external attack. The World, The Flesh and the Devil are constantly hammering at a good Gospel preaching, Bible believing Church. There is no end to the methods and means aimed to shutting down the Gospel by the enemies of Christ.
But the third chapter of James very clearly describes a serious threat that actually develops from within a Church... any Church. James calls it a live coal from hell! Most readers of this article, already know that I am speaking of the tongue.
A careful study of the book of Psalms with a pointed emphasis on the enemies of David, one will discover that most of the enemies that David mentioned in that wonderful book are people who have vicious tongues. Ps 57:4 My soul is among lions: and I lie even among them that are set on fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword.
In fact Psalms mentions the tongue's evils similarly to James three, so we are not talking about a minor problem. The use of the tongue is a serious matter and serious enough to demand attention.
James tells us that no man can tame the tongue. It is like fire. It is like poison. It is deceitful because it can bless God and curse men in the same breath. It is an unruly evil. It is a powerful instrument that must be controlled. It becomes the defining source of a person's nature, personality and attitude. It is the source of information that defines others prior to first hand knowlege. In other words, we form opinions about others before we get acquainted with them personally, by what someone else has told us. We ostracize potential friends based on what we hear from current friends. We form opinions about others in error, by what we hear said about them. Our natural tendency is to take as truth, what someone tells us rather than finding out for ourself. Many people build themselves up by tearing other people down, and are very slick in making lies seem as truth. Many people seem to thrive on disemanating evil information about other people. Many people seem to thrive on hearing evil reports. Have you ever noted how the media seems to concentrate on reporting evil happenings, some of which are real events, but many are contrived by the media. Good news finds itself being reported mixed in with the classified ads if it is reported at all. Evil predominates the headlines.
Sadly Churches are not immune from the attacks of the tongue from within. Christians also have tongues. The same tongue that James is referring to. Really! James is talking to believers. That chapter is a dire warning. Lives are shattered, homes destroyed, Churches split because of the uncontrolled tongue. Jealousy, bitterness and outright sin can empower the tongue to spread poison and unruly evil. Christians will naturally point out someone elses faults in order to cover up their own faults. Christians will gossip about others just to draw attention to their supposed membership of the "IN" crowd, "I know something you don't." Some Christians will dispense evil information about someone they do not like; a sly way of throwing a punch. Others will take up the juicy gossip and continue to spread it for the above mentioned reasons, and occasionally add a tidbit. There is no perfect description of the possessor of an evil tongue. Sometimes it reveals itself by asking for "sworn secrecy" yet knowing that it will be passed on. The source of the gossip cannot be classed. It may come from men or women. It may come from Doctor or Deacon. It may come from preacher or publican. It may come from the trustees or the Ladies Raid Society. The source may be infected for the first time or have carried the disease for years. The object of gossip may be a bus kid or the Pastor. It does seem to concentrate on those members who are publically prominent in the Church; The Pastor, Sunday School teachers, Music Director, Musicians. Even the Janitor. There is no one who is immune from being the carrier or subject of gossip and even worse slander. If a Church does not take firm action against the evil uses of the tongue, it will ultimately be destroyed. Worse yet it will stand permeated and lifeless by the lack of brotherly love.
There is no human way of quashing gossip, except to make sure that it is not true. The more one tries to deny the veracity of gossip, the more gossip will find new avenues to propagate itself. It is like computer viruses. The ignorant imbeciles that devise viruses spend blinded hours defeating virus blockers, they gleefully rejoice when they have successfully destroyed a computer network or someones important files. they are heartless. A gossip is no different.
The only way to stop an evil tongue is for the owner of that tongue, confess to God that he or she has lost control of that unruly member. Ask themselves why they dislike someone so much that they would choose to turn their tongue loose. Ask themselves why they don't have the courage to personally approach the gossipee and settle differences face to face. Ask themselves if it is right to destroy their Church through gossip. Ask themselves if they will ever have to answer to God for their evil communication.
If your tongue is guilty of unruly evil, then you are obligated to do what you can to remedy its damage. There is no way possible to regather all the evil, lying words that you have turned loose. All those ears who heard and tongues that repeated your wicked information cannot be corrected. What is done is done! You can go to the one that you have slandered. You must go to him or her. God will not listen to you until you have gone to him or her. He doesn't forget. It doesn't get covered up with other things. As many of those to whom you spoke lies, that God brings to your remembrance, you must go to and rectify the false information. More than likely they will not take your example, but if you show true repentence, it may have some effect on the other carriers of evil reports.
I repeat, no one is immune from the temptation to spread false (unverified) information. I have received at least 5 emails this week that contains false information. (www.Snopes.com folks!) It is a continuing battle for every one of us. Jesus said, "I am the truth." If the son shall set you free, ye shall be free indeed.
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