Before I am accused of being sacrilegious, let me explain that the word ‘epistle’ according to my Oxford English Dictionary simply means “a letter, especially one of a literary, formal or public nature.” Thus, because this post is of a “public nature”…
During one of my Facebook meanderings, I discovered news about family and friends, new babies, recent vacations, exciting job challenges, etc. It was good to catch up and I reminded myself to more often wander through the site.
My eyes widened, however, when I saw an inflammatory headline about President Obama. The words didn’t just condemn a political stance or decision. They impugned his character and motives, his racial identity, his very person. Most disturbing, this was posted for the entire world by a person I assume to be a Christian. I came to that conclusion by other of her posts: she identifies herself as such, is compassionate toward others (with this one obvious exception!), involved in her church and community and is a loving parent.
In an instant my thoughts flew to other words I’d recently read: Brothers and sisters, whatever is true… noble…right…pure…lovely…admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8). And, of course, the words that Jesus’ own brother wrote: With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. (James 3:9).
We live in the usually wonderful world of technology. The good news of Jesus now flies to every corner of the globe where the internet reaches. I personally receive comments from nations where missionaries and other Christian workers cannot physically be present, or are in mortal danger if they cross the borders. Because of the Holy Spirit’s work through technology, there truly are no closed countries. The “epistle” of Facebook is neutral, but what is posted carries moral and spiritual weight.
James spares no words in describing the danger of a similarly neutral tool, the tongue. He knew full well that our tongues have been created by God, for God. But he’s adamant about how what was created for good can be used for evil. Read these words of James in “Marilyn’s paraphrase:” Facebook is a small part of life, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. Facebook also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame Facebook. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With Facebook we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.
Amen and amen.