BlogsThoughts and insights from Jubilee Church Wirral
The power of the tongue
By Vernon Martin, Life Group and Worship leader, Jubilee Church Wirral
It stung as the woman’s hand slapped my cheek and I was jerked back to reality after being way off somewhere deep in thought.
I was trying hard to remember if I got everything I had come into the shop for. I was only about seven or eight years old.
My mom was waiting outside and had sent me in to get 2L of milk – that much I did remember….but was there something else I was forgetting?!
It was a hot summer’s day in South Africa and I recall feeling of the cool tiles on the soles of my bare feet as I ran through the aisles of the Pick ‘n’ Pay (think Tesco, but less posh!).
When I got it and was ready to pay for it, I didn’t notice that I was in the wrong queue at the till. There was a single non-white queue at the end of the row of tills that was only manned occasionally.
I didn’t deliberately avoid it, I just had a momentary lapse of memory and proceeded to stand in the queue of people nearest to me.
Standing in line I wondered if I’d missed something; was I supposed to get something else? Did I get the right milk? Thinking back I can’t remember exactly what took me so far away in thought. But I was obviously not paying too much attention to my surroundings. I was too far away in my head to see what was coming.
She was only about 18 at most, I would guess. But then again I was never any good at guessing anyone’s age, so who knows?
The thing I do know for sure was that her ring left an imprint on my cheek after her hand landed. ‘Wat kyk jy vir my, jou hotnot!’ (Why are you looking at me, you hotnot) was her exclamation of disgust that caught my attention and just as I realised her vocalisation was directed at me it was already too late; the blow had landed.
I dropped the milk, out of sheer shock! Oh man, did it sting! And as the snot and tears started to flow I clutched my cheek and ran to my mom who had started walking down the road already.
A ‘hotnot’ is a derogatory term for a brown skinned person in South Africa. It’s a shortened form of ‘Hottentot’ and was the name given to the indigenous people along the coast who encountered the first Dutch settlers in South Africa in the 17th century. It’s a horrible term. And even at seven or eight years old you knew it meant you were unwelcome and seen as somehow dirty or unworthy; a third or lesser class citizen.
Why am I telling you this story from way back?
I have been reminded about it recently a few times and have ended up thinking about it, and some aspect of it, again and again; the importance of my speech.
Through the sermons, the blogs, the testimonies of how God has been speaking to us, I have also been reminded of my own experiences. We all go through experiences in life that has the potential to leave a mark on us – either for a short time, or a long time.
Dave preached a message on the power of the tongue a few weeks back and mentioned that well known rhyme, ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’ and how untrue that phrase is!
Words have the potential to hurt us quite severely sometimes. As children of God, we have a great responsibility to watch what we say to one another.
The wonderful thing is that when we master our mouths; or tame our tongues, we show that we belong to Him. Our speech becomes the evidence of our maturity in Christ.
And at times I am acutely aware of falling short so very easily when it comes to this.
We’re just about to come to the end of a very challenging series of sermons in the short book of James. So much was James’ passion on living in such a way as to attain the ‘crown of life’ that he specifically mentioned the tongue 6 times within the first three chapters of the letter that is the book of James!
I’m challenged – and I challenge you – let’s watch and listen and read the messages and think about this very important issue some more even after we’re finished on our sojourn through the book.
Praise God, His Grace is powerful and effective to help us in our speech! And whether we have been hurt by words spoken to us or we have hurt others by the words we have spoken to them, the grace of God can come and heal and restore and forgive us of those marks – scars – that words leave on us.
Vernon Martin with his wife Yvonne
In the month of remembrance, Chris on remembering what Jesus sacrificed for us and how we need to act on it.
Helen on the importance of Friends and what God has to say about them in the Bible.
Andrew on evangelism, how we are all evangelists whether we like it or not, and how to evangelise easily.
Dawne on the parable of the lost sheep and the lessons we can take from it as followers of Jesus and members of His flock.
Yvonne on loss and how God has helped her deal with the loss of her mum and the impending departure of her eldest son to his first job
Nicki on serving at Newday and the impact it has had on all three Frodsham children and many, many others
Simon on the frustrations of not being able to get to sleep properly, and the Bible verses that help him stand firm against sleeplessness.
Gerry on how easy it is to be drawn into gossip. “If you can’t say anything positive, don’t say anything at all” isn’t just good advice, it’s Biblical wisdom.
Sylvia on being an encourager: “God knows our troubles. When we open up to Him, He’ll use other people to encourage us through His word.”
Lynne on doing what God wants us to do even when we really don’t want to do it – and why it’s important
Chris on the power of our words and how having a relationship with Jesus can give us the power of the right word at the right time.
Helen on why Psalms have taken the place of Proverbs as her favourite book of the Bible
Andrew Greenhalgh on being much better at giving advice than at taking it – and what happens as a result.
Chantal Robertson on how God and the gospel of Christ has never changed over time – even though the way we package it has.
Nicki on how she was planning to work in the marketing and advertising industry until God led her in a different direction.
Dawne challenges us to look at life with the enthusiasm, joy and exuberance of her Macedonian dog Floki and find joy in the everyday.
Jen on how taking the Alpha Course because she had nothing better to do on a Tuesday afternoon led to a life-changing wheelchair for her daughter Daisy and many others.
Gerry on how her ideas of what love truly is have changed over the years, and how love can be so much more than a feeling.
Matt Wilson on how God is weaving a tapestry – and knows what that looks like. He can see the big picture. Our part is to trust him with the threads he has given us.
Denise Griffiths on resolutions and why she has resolved not to make the usual New Year’s resolutions such as giving up chocolate, eating healthier or doing more exercise!
Vernon on the transience of life, and how, through all suffering, God’s steadfast love has the capacity to satisfy us every morning.
Andrew Greenhalgh on how he ended up going to church on Christmas morning for the first time at the age of 11 – and what it has taught him.
Helen on how preparations for Christmas vary from family to family and country to country. And what happened to Helen’s Lindt advent chocolates?