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Oct 19, 2020 08:00am
Practicing Restraint in and Un-Restrained World
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The old expression “What a difference a year makes!” certainly is fitting for this year. 

There is truly little that hasn’t changed in some way. Our schools look totally different than at this time last year. Our medical care has changed. Churches are operating differently than ever before. Many of our workplaces have different procedures and protocols.

We have all had to learn to not forget our mask and to remember to wash our hands. Most of us had never heard the term “social distancing” before this year, yet now it is an integral part of daily life.

And then, there’s those pesky temperature checks.

PHYSICAL TEMPERATURE CHECK

Before this year, most of us never gave our temperatures a thought unless we started feeling sick. The only time anyone else checked our temp was when we had a doctor’s appointment. 

But now, temperature checks are everywhere.

Kids must get screened before they enter the school building. They check us at the door to the doctor’s offices and turn us away if we have a fever; never mind that we came to the office specifically because we had a fever! 

Some churches, restaurants, and other businesses do checks at the door. We can’t board a plane without getting checked. Our local police department even scans the officers coming on duty in their cars before they are allowed to report!

So what’s the big deal about temperature checks?

I’m no doctor but I do understand that fevers indicate something problematic going on in our bodies. They may indicate an infection or disease that we might not be aware off. They may alert us to an issue that we need to address before it gets any worse. So, temperature checks do serve as a protective screening for us.

But in today’s environment, their major purpose is to serve as a protective measure to prevent the spread of disease.

So it seems to me that they are a small inconvenience that serves a worthwhile purpose.

I am not at all minimizing the damage done by this virus. But I think there is an infection that is even more widespread and is doing even more damage.

Its symptoms are hostility, animosity, disunity, incivility, and downright nastiness. If left untreated, it quickly can escalate to outright hatred.

It is spreading and it is destroying us!

Civil dialogue seems to be all but extinct. We cannot turn on a news program without being bombarded by the nastiness. Social media has become the platform for personal attacks that are vicious and disgraceful. Supposed friends are now routinely calling one another atrocious names.

And we seem in a contest for who can inflict the most wounds.

The temperature of our words, both spoken and written, is out of control.

SOUL TEMPERATURE CHECK

So if our physical temperature indicates problems within our bodies, could it be that the temperature of our words indicates problems within our souls?

I think so and it seems as if Jesus agrees:

“But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man unclean.” (Matthew 15:18)

It seems to me that Jesus is saying our words, spoken or written, are indicative of what’s in our hearts. So, if we speak or post hateful words, there is hatefulness in our hearts. If we seek to inflict damage with our words, it indicates viciousness within our souls. If we persist in pettiness with our words, it proves pettiness in our character.

Nastiness in our words indicates nastiness in our souls whether we realize it or not.

So what would a temperature check of your words indicate?

As I write this, we are only weeks away from an election. The rhetoric on all sides is super-heated with little hope that it will cool down afterwards. We push our agenda at all costs, and anyone who does not agree with us is likely considered evil, ignorant, or our enemy.

Politics and social issues cannot be discussed without it turning nasty.

And that indicates an infection that is damaging our souls and spreading out of control.

TREATMENT PLAN

I don’t hold any illusion that you and I can change the temperature of the overall dialogue in our country to a large degree (pun intended). But with God’s help, I can change me, and you can change you.

I share five suggestions:

1. Responsibility

Accept that we have a responsibility to lower the temperature of our words without sacrificing our principles. Ephesians 4:15 describes, “speaking truth in love”. Make a conscious effort, when sharing your opinions and beliefs, to do so in a genuinely friendly and considerate manner.

2. Assessment

Don’t add heat if you can’t add light. Before you hit that comment button, ask yourself if what you are going to say has a chance to have a positive impact or is it just going to fan the flames of animosity and division even further.

3. Pause

Practice the fine art of the pause. Words spoken in the heat of the moment often just make matters worse. Rational and productive words rarely come in emotionally charged responses. Just force yourself to take a little time before posting, sharing, or responding.

4. Encouragement

Consider that the most positively influential people in the world have always practiced the art of encouragement. The apostle Paul used encouragement throughout his ministry even in times of persecution. And God used him to change the world. In my own lifetime, the work of Dr. Martin Luther King was always anchored in encouragement amidst incredible hostility and animosity. And he also was used to change the world. 

Cultivate an attitude of encouragement. Seek to become known as an encourager.

5. Relationships

Value relationships. They are the essence of life. Are the words you are about to speak or write worth damaging a relationship? Do your words indicate that you care for and value others, even those who may not agree with you?  Jesus was pretty clear about that.

And what about your relationship with Jesus? That is the most important relationship you will ever have. Unless you have the love of Jesus in your heart, there will always be problems in your soul that are reflected in your words. 

Check your temperature with Jesus before you tackle anything else. That relationship is at the core of everything. Focus on Jesus and consciously let him direct the temperature of your words and you will see your positive influence grow. It’s harder to be nasty when you include Jesus in the dialogue.

WARNING

This culture of divisiveness and super-heated rhetoric that now dominates our society is getting worse by the day and it will do irreparable damage to us and to our country:

“If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” (Galatians 5:15)

Consider yourself warned.

Check your temperature!

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