The Path to Peace often begins with the tongue

I love pretty much any movie Sandra Bullock is in and one of my favorites is Miss Congeniality. In this movie, she plays the role of a tom-boyish cop who is sent in undercover to a beauty pageant to try to figure out who is making threats to blow up the contestants. She starts our feeling like the girls in the pageant are flighty and silly and sit around all day talking about world peace. But if ever there was a time our world needs peace – it’s now.

As a teenager I participated in a youth mission trip. We went to parks and performed a musical entitled, “Walk in Love.” One of the songs we sang was about the tongue and some of the lyrics were “It gets me deep in trouble and it keeps me talking double.” Isn’t that true? If we do not carefully watch the words of our mouth we can easily find ourselves in trouble. The tongue holds tremendous power. Power to build up and power to destroy. Power to brew up dissent and power to bring peace. And power to divide or power to bring unity. Oh, how we should strive to honor God with our words by keeping our tongue from evil and deceitful speech and by using it to seek and pursue peace.

Go imagineering with me

For just a moment I want you to think about being on a beach. The sun is setting. The waves are rolling around your feet. Seagulls cry. The wind is blowing in your hair. And the Creator of the World is walking alongside of you. You feel contentment and….peace.

Years ago there was a commercial from a product call Calgon. Calgon was probably the introduction into the world for aromatherapy. It was a box of powder that you could put in your tub and then escape from the screaming kids, the ringing telephone (the kind that attached to the wall of your home), the bills that needed to be paid, and the chores waiting for your attention. Wouldn’t it be nice if a box of powder truly had the ability to bring contentment and peace – even for just a half hour?

Seeking and Pursing Peace

The Hebrew word for peace is Shalom. The word carries the idea of wholeness and completeness. It can also refer to completing or repairing a relationship or to describe something as uninjured, safe, complete, peaceable. It can also refer to harmony between friends or allies, success in one’s endeavors, good health, and security.

That is definitely worth seeking and pursing! And David gives us four ways we can seek and pursue peace in Psalm 34:13-14. He wrote: “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from deceitful speech. Turn away from evil and do what is good; seek peace and pursue it.

Pursue peace by Keeping your tongue from evil

The tongue is used for both good and evil. It can encourage and build up others or it can wound, deceive, and corrupt others. Unfortunately, the world chooses to most often use the tongue for evil. So what classifies as “speaking evil?” We speak evil when the words we say wound someone else, regardless of our motive or intent behind the words. Think about what you say and if its something you would not want someone to say about you, then don’t say it to someone else. Derogatory remarks, racial slurs, lies, false accusations, or any other words that lower a person in the eyes of others is “speaking evil”.

Sometimes we are guilty of “speaking the truth in love,” but our real intent is to bring out the faults of others into the public eye either out of a heart of revenge or to make ourselves look better. That isn’t speaking the truth in love – it is speaking evil.

To keep our tongue from evil, we must speak words that build others up, regardless of race, religion, age, gender, or past mistakes.

Simply put: Don’t speak evil, pursue peace, edify others

The simple rule of thumb here is: Don’t speak evil. The question is not, did I say that with good or bad intentions. Rather the question is: Am I speaking evil. In Romans 14:19, Paul wrote: “Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.” To edify is to build up. So if we want to keep our tongue from evil, we need to make sure the words we are saying build up another person, regardless of race, religion, age, gender, past mistakes or any other qualifier. The only way we can bring down our ingrained stinking thinking is to see others through Jesus’ eyes – a person so worthy to Him that He died for them just as He did for you. We need to love others that much – that’s loving our neighbor.

Don’t speak evil. Pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.

Sounds to me like a solution to the racial division that is rocking our world!

We defeat our stinking thinking as we see others through Jesus’ eyes-a person so worthy to Him that He died for them. We need to love others that much – that’s loving our neighbor.

Pursue Peace by Keeping your lips from deceitful speech

Pursue peace: Don’t bear false witness against your neighbor

Deceitful speech is founded in any kind of lie. In the Ten Commandments, one of God’s commands is to not “bear false witness against your neighbor.” That means you don’t say something about them that isn’t true. It can be a lie about why they were late to work this morning or about how they spent your time while working at home. Or it could mean saying they are guilty when they are not.

If we are to not bear false witness against our neighbor, then who is our neighbor? It isn’t just the person that lives next door or in our neighborhood. It is each and every person that we come in contact with every day.

Pursue peace: Don’t make promises you don’t intend to keep

There are probably a whole lot of politicians who need to practice keeping their lips form deceitful speech. Making promises to win someone’s favor when you have no intention of keeping those promises constitutes deceitful speech. Or let’s make it more personal. As a parent, how many times have your kids asked you to do something and you say, “In a minute, honey.” But you know in your heart that “in a minute” isn’t ever coming? Making promises that you know you have no plans to fulfill is deceitful speech. It also breeds distrust, anger, and bitterness – all of which are destroyers of peace.

Pursue peace: Don’t make yourself look better than you are

What about making yourself look better than you are? One of the ethics that govern counselors is we never tell a client we are more than what we are credentialed for. So if I am licensed as a professional counselor, I would not advertise myself as a psychiatrist or tell a client I was working with that I’m a psychiatrist. Maybe for you that might look like your boss wanting to promote you but you need skills you don’t have and you try to “fake it” and make them think you have those skills. Proverbs 8:7 says, For my mouth will speak truth; Wickedness is an abomination to my lips. and Proverbs 12:17 says, He who speaks truth declares righteousness, But a false witness, deceit.

If it is deceitful, then don’t let it pass your lips. Instead, speak truth.

Pursue peace by Turning away from evil

Let’s face it – we live in a broken, sinful world and evil is all around us. But we are not to conform to this world. We are to turn away from evil. As I thought about this phrase, I can see two possibilities for how we turn away from evil.

Pursue peace: When evil is in front of you, turn away from it.

The first is like picking a checkout line at the grocery store. You start to get in one but its a long line and several customers’ carts are loaded full and the line next to that one is short and the one person in that line just has a few items. So you turn away from the long line and go to the short one. Or maybe it’s late at night and pull into a gas station to get gas but you see what appears to be a hold up going on inside so you turn away and then just down the road pull over and call the police to report it. If we see evil in front of us we should turn around and go another direction.

Pursue peace: When you have committed evil, repent from it.

The second way we can turn away from evil is in the idea of repentance. If we have done something evil, then we need to confess it, seek God’s forgiveness and repent of the sin. If we keep going back to the same sin over and over, then we probably are not truly sorry and we certainly haven’t repented. When we repent of a sin it like going down the path of sin, realizing that we got off the highway of righteousness at some point and so we stop, turn around, and take a completely new path that leads back to righteousness.

Turning from what is evil means when evil is in front of me I turn and go another way. It also means that if I’ve done something sinful, I repent and turn away from that sin.

Pursue peace by Doing what is good

Whenever we remove something from our life that shouldn’t be there, we need to fill that space up with something that should be there. So if we want to know peace, we have to do what is good. That’s more than just keeping the 10 Commandments. It is also being obedient to do what God asks you to do. Doing good is extending goodness to other people. It is exhibiting empathy and sympathy. If Jesus would do it, then you can too and you can be sure you are doing what is good.

Doing what is good is more than keeping the 10 Commandments. It is also doing whatever God asks of you, extending goodness to other people and showing empathy and sympathy. If Jesus would do it, then you can too.

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