I’ve been tagged by Andrew to post “that verse or story of scripture which is important to you, which you find yourself re-visiting time after time”. Like him, this is my first meme, so please bear with me if this isn’t quite up to scratch.
In my case, I find James 1:19-27 particularly apposite:
19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
19 You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. 21Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.
22 But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. 23For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; 24for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. 25But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing.
26 If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. 27Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
Associative organisations such as churches, political parties and interest groups (concerning which I’m involved in a number) frequently find themselves beset by gossip, slander, personality cults and other unpleasant things. Upon hearing potentially damaging gossip (particularly if it concerns one’s “enemies”), I’ve often found it a challenge to keep the particulars to myself. For instance, I’ve been informed by a well-placed source that certain legal processes might, if pursued, potentially damage a certain public figure concerning certain events in Queensland that alledgedly occurred a number of years ago (I haven’t been fully briefed, and nor have I verified the matter to full satisfaction; suffice to say that political benefit might accrue to “my” side should this “see the light.”) Verses 19-21 help remind me that holding my tongue on this until further notice is imperative.
Still, a further challenge is posed in verse 21 for those of us who dabble at times in the field of public relations: how should we differentiate confronting malicious gossip from ‘spinning’ situations which, when you look at them, are bad? Verses 22-27 perhaps provide a clue by suggesting that our actions (as well as our words) ought be oriented towards that which is good.
Yet that is far from seeing words as of no effect (would James really approve of a GP who, after paying a house call to an afflicted widow, becomes responsible for a malicious rumour to the effect that she’s syphilitic, thus effectively isolating her?) Rather, we seem encouraged to let our words and actions correspond to one another in a manner whereby the actions follow the words (which in turn are normatively bound.)
I remain, as ever,
In Your Humble and Obedient Service:
Michael Thomas Augustine Canaris.