“The gift of speech is one of the noblest that God has given to man. It was meant to be loving, true, wise, enriching, and full of blessing. God gave us our tongues that with them we might speak to Him in praise and prayer—and to our fellow men [spouse] in love, in hope—in all gracious, helpful, encouraging words.” – J.R. Miller (1912) [emphasis mine]
We live in a world bathed with words. Everywhere we go we hear words proclaiming, disdaining or disagreeing with someone or something. It is a noisy, often unkind world. Yet this is where God has called us to live; in the midst of the trouble and turmoil. He provides a place of refuge for us – it is buried deep within the love of Christ where we will find safety from the piercing arrow of the cruel words of others.
In his excellent essay, Refuge from the Hurt of Tongues, J.R. Miller talks about the only safe refuge from this world:
In no other way can this lesson he taught so well, as by looking at the example of Christ. Never about any other life, did the strife of tongues wage as it did about Him. Men’s cruelty knew no limit. Poisoned tongues emptied their envenomed bitterness upon Him. But none of this rage and bitterness disturbed Him. You know the secrets. There were two—love and peace. His heart was full of love, and the peace of God guarded Him.
We should understand these secrets. If we truly love men—we will not be affected by cruel words. They will hurt and sting—but they will not embitter us. We will forgive injury and wrong. We will answer back hate—with kindness, rudeness with gentleness. Then if we have love in our heart—we will seek ever to allay bitterness in others. One of our Master’s beatitudes is, ” Blessed are the peacemakers.” We can do much to lessen the strife of tongues, by always speaking gently ourselves.
Parkhurst, in his little book on “The Sunny Side of Christianity,” tells this story: “One day on a trolley car there was a door . . . that squeaked every time it was opened or shut. A man, sitting near it, noticed this. Rising, he took a little can from his pocket, let fall a drop of oil on the offending spot, and sat down, saying, ‘I always carry an oil can in my pocket, for there are so many squeaky things that a drop of oil will set right.’ “
Love carries an oil can and is ready everywhere to lubricate squeaking things. We all know a few men and women who are ever dropping oil to soften friction, and smoothing and quieting strife among others. They have some gentle word, some happy suggestion, some bit of humor, some way of changing the subject, when there is danger of strife. Blessings on the people who carry oil cans in their pockets! Not only do they add immeasurably to the world’s sweetness—but they have found a refuge for themselves from the strife of tongues. Love is the secret. It was Christ’s secret. Amid hate and cruelty—He loved on. If we keep gentle, patient, sweet, forgiving, and loving—the wildest clamor of harsh and angry voices will not disturb us. Our soft answer—will turn away wrath. Your good—will overcome evil.
The Christian way to resist the strife of tongues—is with love. If anyone speaks evil of you—say something good of him in return. If the other person is angry—keep patient and sweet. If another has bitter words to say of an absent person—your task is to say a kind word of him. It was said of Starr King that if anyone did him an unkindness, or said a hard or bitter word of him—that was the very man he loved. His heart went out to him in yearning, and he would find ways to conquer him by love.
Our homes can be a place of refuge from this concert of angry and bitter words – or it can be a place where we add to the noise. It is a choice we make daily. We will talk more about the words we use with our spouse and the effect this has on our marriages on Thursday. In the meantime, set aside some time to read J.R. Miller’s complete essay together with your spouse. It will help in our discussion.