1997-07-03 - Ripples
James 3:4-6 Behold, the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder, wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. 5 So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. Behold, how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. (NAS)
As a boy, I can recall a few occasions where I came upon a perfectly still pond or lake. The scene mirrored perfectly in the surface would just about draw me into it. In a scrambling moment, I had to find a rock or something to skip or toss into the middle of the water. It was almost a compulsion. Splash! And suddenly the perfection of the reflection would be shattered as the stone penetrated the image. And everyone who could see it would know exactly where the rock had landed. Ripples would course outward in an ever-growing set of concentric circles from the point of impact. These ripples would warp the remaining image as they passed through it. It would take minutes or an hour for the surface to return to the original quiet state. As I grew up, I would sometimes feel a pang about having disturbed the water, but there was no undoing it.
Likewise, in an unthinking or inconsiderate moment, we can say something hurtful or unkind. It may be not be meant the way it came out, but it is out. Or someone, especially a young Christian or someone who is seeking Jesus, maybe dealt with in a strict way where it is unneeded, where a moment of compassion or understanding would reach to them in a way that would go beyond any correction. A word spoken in anger or ignorance of the situation, or without grace and mercy, can be a spiritual knife that causes grievous wounds.
When this happens, ripples appear on the surface again, either for good or for ill. A life touched in either direction will ripple outward to the people they know. "Do you know what a wonderful thing that church did for us?" Or, "Did you hear what awful thing happened to …?" Call it gossip, call it whatever you like. But the word will get around in either case. We have all heard sad tales of the hypothetical young Christian man in his late teens, ready for the mission field. They have a run-in with a person in leadership and are turned off completely. How many lives are affected there? One? What about the people he knows here and knew of his plans. What about the people he may have touched on his mission to wherever. What about others this person may speak to in such a way? Far more than one life is affected, and the ripples go out from there to others.
Ps 126:2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with joyful shouting; then they said among the nations, "The LORD has done great things for them." (NAS)
A tongue filled with laughter and praise is a reflection of a heart filled to overflowing with the joy of the Lord. What a joy it is just to be with someone whose heart is full. A soothing tongue, a tongue that can say "I accept you where you are," or "I appreciate your questions" without offense or bitterness, is a secure place someone can go for help without fear of judgment, condemnation or censure. The ripples that flow from this place reach far, and heal families and towns. And once those people learn to live in that security, the ripples of the love of Jesus start all over again.
Lord Jesus, Help us to guard that flaming tongue we all have. Some of us have learned some already, and others are just starting. May we be patient with each other as we grow into reflectors of Your joy and glory. Send ripples of mercy and grace out from each heart that knows You, for in those ripples are the force to shake the world for Your honor and glory once again. Amen.