FIRST-PERSON: The words we use
FRESNO, Calif. (BP)--"I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned" (Matthew 12:36-37 HCSB).
Lately I've come to realize how careless many are with the words they use daily. At times I am saddened by the vocabulary of some of my fellow brothers and sisters who oftentimes use fiery, loud and angry statements from a faith which honors "a soft answer."
As I came to this realization, I knew I had to examine my own personal life and my speech.
"Am I honoring God with my speech?" and "Do I hurt others with my speech?" were two key questions I had to answer for myself.
We should never create an environment where truth is shaded in any way. We must be careful not to misinform or make conflicting statements. We always must remember that what we say has the ability to tear down others, causing deep and sometimes lasting pain. We also have the opportunity to use our speech to build up those around us. Let us never forget the passage in the Gospel of Matthew which reminds us that one day we will give an account for what we say.
At times I have been the object of "careless speech" when refusing to speak out on political issues facing our state and nation. I believe my comments on those issues have the potential to polarize our churches and those whom we are attempting to reach. Do I believe Christians should take an active part in the political process? Absolutely! However, my passion is for the lost of our state and seeing every man, woman, boy and girl come to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That is where I believe attitudes and opinions change -- when the truth of God's Word indwells hearts and minds.
There is too much good news taking place in our churches and through our state convention for me to speak careless words. I'm encouraged with our church planting and evangelism efforts. I rejoice with the power and presence of the Lord on all our ministries and celebrate with my words what He is doing among and through His people called California Southern Baptists.
Fermin Whittaker is executive director of the California Southern Baptist Convention.