“And if anyone hears my words and does not observe them, I do not condemn him, for I did not come to condemn the world but to save the world.” (John 12:47)
As we do throughout the Easter season, today we have a serving from Acts. We meet Barnabas and Saul returning from a road trip on which they have been spreading the Word of God. They enter into prayer and fast in order to discern their next move. In John’s gospel, Jesus, the Word, makes the above statement.
The readings set me to pondering about words – what we say, what is said, how much of our speech condemns others. I realized that in less than three hours yesterday my ears had been party to at least five fair-sized rumors. I don’t usually keep such a score, and I wondered if I were to if yesterday’s tally would have been average or astounding.
My thoughts turned to my end-of-day chat with my teaching partner. Many of the students we see daily have learned to say startlingly unkind things at the drop of a hat. (One’s skin thickens incrementally.) My partner has developed a way of challenging them to think about what they say rather than just blurting any and every unkindness. He tells them, “Use your filter,” as a way of encouraging them to think before they speak. We laughed as I shared a quote with him that I recently heard: “Everything you say should be true, but not everything that is true needs to be said.”
Paul, Barnabas and Jesus didn’t need the filter. They rest of us do.