Taming the tongue
Suggestions from a newcomer to make a good conversation betterBy Matthew Morin
“No one can tame the tongue — a restless evil, full of deadly poison,” says James 3:8. While the apostle’s words are undoubtedly true, I wish I could invite James to spend a weekend with folks from Central District Conference of Mennonite Church USA and then see if he still holds such a pessimistic view of human speech.
I left the recent CDC annual meeting full of hope over the current state of Mennonite dialogue. I heard words being used to build up God’s people. I think James would agree that the delegates and representatives from CDC model what it means to be “quick to listen and slow to speak” (James 1:19).
This is not common. As someone who has been worshiping with the Mennonite church for a few years — and just attended his first CDC meeting — I want to remind you that this is not the way things are usually done.
I was amazed at the way God enabled us to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3).
Yet we should not allow our celebration of God’s goodness to lapse into pious self-deception. We too use words carelessly; we too sin with the tongue. When our congregations, conferences and denominations are discerning God’s will with our gay brothers and sisters, we can ill afford to utter even a single unguarded syllable. Disagreements can be a gift; misunderstandings are not.
I would like to make three suggestions for our church’s conversations.
— Stop referring to homosexuality as an “issue.”
I once took a class called Contemporary Moral Issues. We debated abortion, homosexuality, war, poverty and the death penalty. We argued like fools because we reduced questions about human embodiment to “issues.” Poverty is not an issue; it is a lived reality, an affliction of human bodies caused by the sin of greed. War is not an issue; it is an action, the collective decision to kill a group of human beings. Issues are disembodied. They stand between people, making it difficult to know one another.
By listening to one another and the Holy Spirit, we can narrow the distance between us. Belonging to Christ’s body, we encounter one another as beautiful and unique individuals “to whom each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7).
Heterosexual Christians need to learn their gay brothers and sisters are not problems to be solved or issues to be debated but human beings as different from one another as any others, with gifts to share for the common good of the church.
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