3 Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth;
Keep watch over the door of my lips.
4 Do not incline my heart to any evil thing,
To practice deeds of wickedness
With men who do iniquity;
And do not let me eat of their delicacies.
Christian, never forget that we are called to live a disciplined life.
As often as possible, I attend the weekly city council meeting of the City of Twin Falls. I consider the experience as both part of my duty as a citizen and a pastor in the city. Every week the agenda provides for a time for members of the community to speak to the city council about whatever is on their mind. As a citizen of the United States, among all the nations of the world, this kindness from God is not missed on me.
Privilege is no permission to remove the guard and behave undisciplined.
The Psalmist (above) asks God to set a guard over his mouth and keep watch over the door of his lips. Then, because he is disciplined and knows his propensities asks God to not give him over to the inclination of his heart to do any evil thing or to practice the deeds of wickedness with men who do iniquity and there eat of the same food (do the same) as those who oppose God.
There is no secret that the city of Twin Falls has become a topic in local and national, traditional and non-traditional news outlets in the past few years. My thoughts today are not about matters related to religious differences between Christianity and Islam, the differences are clear and distinct. My thoughts are not about the cultural dangers of a philosophical conflict Islam presents with the constitution of the United States, there is substantial evidence that points to the fact that the religion of Islam poses serious threat and I have spoken of this.
My thoughts are about how people, professing Christians particularly, speak in the public square when there is conflict. For me, Scripture has to be the rule that governs my thoughts as well as my words. Following are some thoughts for consideration based on years of listening and observing how people speak in the public and speak about and to people of authority.
Give respect. Show respect. You are an ambassador of Christ’s reconciliation. If you want Christ to be known then put yourself aside and put Him upon display in how and what you say. Your patriotic spirit is best seen as you salute the flag at the start of the meeting.
- Speaking in a public civic meeting must be limited. Don’t let limited time restraints create an angst against leaders. Count a time limit as a blessing.
- Time limits in the public square causes us to purposefully process what you intend to say. Brevity in the public square helps give clarity. Choose your words carefully. Time limits help put a guard over your mouth.
- Consider writing out what you intend to say. This helps you to avoid saying something you didn’t mean to say or saying something that may be poorly communicated.
- Don’t waste your words.
- Refrain from name calling. There is no benefit and you don’t win a listening ear when you use degrading names to the ones you hope will listen to you. You must speak with respect. If you don’t you are the fool everyone talks about after the meeting.
- Refrain from cursing. I get it, hardly anyone, and I mean anyone, exercises this discipline anymore. Cursing wins nothing, ever. If you want to be known as a slave of Christ, then keep your speech honorable. There have been city council meetings where cursing is used, trust me, it doesn’t look good or sound good.
- Consider your attire. It is hard to define “appropriate”, but at least consider what your clothing communicates. To address a person of authority in a t-shirt, wearing a hat, disheveled appearance may actually communicate that you don’t take your issue serious enough to even consider respect. Like it or not, you must give consideration to this. Swallow your pride, comb your hair, and leave your Three Stooges t-shirt for movie night at the park.
- Speaking with genuine respect is not the same as manipulative flattery. Being polite and respectful is no shameful thing. People may accuse you of flattery, but if you’ve checked your motives and you’ve established boundaries for your words you can be at peace that you have been genuinely respectful.
- Be courteous. Address public officials with sir and ma’am, Mr. and Mrs. Guard your tone. People know when your tone is condescending.
- Avoid generalities.
- Avoid slander.
- Take note of your heart rate as you prepare to speak. Take deep breaths. Take a drink of water before you speak.
- If you expect your public officials to uphold the constitution of the United States it is no small thing that you should do the same.
- This is not the time to declare someone as guilty of a crime because you’ve read things or heard things. We have a judicial system for this. Our constitution protects us from being found guilty of something until it’s proven in a court of law that one is guilty. If you believe someone has committed a crime, there are legal means to process through. You are a person under authority. First to God, then to country. To publicly accuse someone without due process is a violation of the constitution.
- Remember this, you may have to go back and sit down next to someone who disagrees with you.
At the end of the day say what is helpful, give serious voice to the conversation. After speaking, sit down with your head up because you represented the Kingdom of Heaven with integrity. To do so is no guarantee that you will be spoken highly of or respected but they’ll have to make up things about you to speak ill of you. Don’t give them a reason to discount you, make them make stuff up about you if they want to speak ill of you.
New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Ps 141:3–4). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.