I miss Rich Mullins. It was just over ten years ago that Mullins was killed in a car accident in Illinois. His music is all over my iPod and one of his songs is the subject of today’s devotional. The song is called “We Are Not As Strong As We Think We Are” and it opens with this stanza.
Well, it took the hand of God Almighty
To part the waters of the sea
But it only took one little lie
To separate you and me
Oh, we are not as strong as we think we are.
If only we could acknowledge that we are not as strong as we think we are and then live accordingly. I believe we would see an amazing difference. Yet pride tells me that I am able to handle the situation. Fear tells me that telling the truth in love will only make it worse. So one little lie or misunderstanding dealt with in my own strength negates the strength of a God who could part the waters of the seas.
Recently a major food company had to recall thousands of cans of chili that were tainted with deadly toxins. A later follow-up to that story told about cans of chili exploding as the pressure built up inside the containers.
That seemed like a messy and disgusting but apt metaphor for how we deal with the toxins of gossip, slander and hurt. We seal them up and store them away hoping that the canning process will deal with the toxin. But the toxins of gossip and slander have not been killed, only compartmentalized. The pain continues to grow, slowly and inexorably. Finally the pressure builds to the point of explosion. But there is a better way.
James wrote these words to the early church:
It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell. (James 3:6, The Message)
James doesn’t pull any punches, does he? One good way to cling to unity is by not believing the gossip that is spread about our fellow Christians. And we certainly shouldn’t spread it any further. Gossip is a parasite that requires a host organism to survive; don’t give gossip a place to live. Think of how many times you have believed something to be true only to find out the information was mostly or even totally wrong. The threat of a libel or slander lawsuit causes some us to be cautious in our written remarks about others. But we’re not so careful about our discussing our brothers and sisters in Christ. Are we really more concerned about the People’s Court than the Kingdom’s Court?
God is serious about how we communicate about others in the flock. Peter writes:
Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless—that’s your job, to bless. You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing. (1 Peter 3:8-9, The Message)
So there is an added bonus for your godly communication: a blessing at no extra charge. Rich Mullin’s wrote this in the chorus of the song.
We are frail
We are fearfully and wonderfully made
Forged in the fires of human passion
Choking on the fumes of selfish rage
And with these our hells and our heavens
So few inches apart
We must be awfully small
And not as strong as we think we are.
No, we are not as strong as we think we are. Recently I wrote about our need to be in unbroken connection to Christ to make this whole Christian thing work. That connection to the spiritual source of power is the difference for Christians living a life of joy and peace. Rich Mullins wrote another song that you undoubtedly know.
Our God is an awesome God
He reigns from heaven above
With wisdom, power, and love
Our God is an awesome God.
We need to acknowledge that He is God and we are not and leave our pride at the altar. Because we are not as strong as we think we are.