Who is there who really desires life,This isn’t saying that bad words are especially naughty compared to bad anything else. Rather, the Rule takes our speech patterns as a window into our souls, laying bare our real attitudes and intentions. We are accountable for far more than the content.
long life, to enjoy good?
Keep your tongue from evil,
and your lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil, and do good;
seek peace, and pursue it
The psalm values truthful rather than manipulative or deceitful speech, but not merely as a defensive, negative thing.
God looks on the heart.
Disciples are called to a grace that actively does good, seeks peace and pursues it. Merely to avoid harm is better than causing it, of course, but it feeds self-righteousness, and leads ultimately to a life of stagnation and mediocrity. The intention behind defensive living, like that behind righteous words, can be defective or even evil. If our purposes are anger, self-righteousness, spite or destruction, we are falling short of all we are called to be. Blessing comes from nothing less than nonviolence as an active pursuit.
So there’s a challenge at the beginning of new year. Driving a car is not just about avoiding accidents, but deciding where we want to go, and aiming for it singleheartedly. We need to be ashamed of those times in Church, of all places, we do not tell the truth, we walk in fear and reactionary anger, we allow our mouths to run away with us. And if we should find ourselves this year feeling we cannot speak up for justice, as positive peacemakers, in the face of the Church’s own institutional blindness, apathy, inertia or even conformism that can open the door to abuse, we need to seek gracious ways of opening ears, eyes, hearts and even, dare I say it, mouths.
A tall order! But to the extent we fulfil it, our local churches become real, credible, and authentic as Christian communities: Good News in the communities they serve.