If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. ( ESV)
Quite honestly, I’ve been mulling this blog post around in my mind for a few weeks, with varying approaches and ideas. But nothing works. Well, nothing that offers a solution, that is. Who wants to read about someone who’s struggling but doesn’t have the answers? And even struggling is a stretch. As Trip Lee so aptly states in the song, “Make War,” I don’t truly make war on my sin. I say I’m struggling, or wrestling, or fighting, but what do I really do about it?
For those of you who are not fans of rap, that might have been a little much, and I apologize, but the message resounds true despite the musical styling. And I’m right there. I cannot write a blog-sermon about controlling one’s tongue, staying unstained from the world, and loving the needy when I cannot even claim to be all-out battling with my own sin.
According to James, the religion I possess is useless and good-for-nothing, because I fail in controlling my tongue. Over the past several years, my language has become increasingly coarse. I’m ashamed to say, that at times I have even been proud of the fact that I felt no remorse in dishing out slang with “the guys.” Reading that, it seems silly. Stupid, even.
I find it interesting that James uses the word picture of bridling one’s tongue. I have been training horses for almost ten years, so the bridle is a piece of equipment that I’m familiar with. When I bridle a horse, I put a metal bit in the horse’s mouth and attach reins to it, allowing me to direct the movement of the horse. At first, a green or untrained horse, will resist the pressure I put on its mouth, and only make very rough movements, but after months of training, I can not only control whether the horse turns left or right, I can affect each and every movement the horse makes. The two pictures below might give you a visual point of comparison.
The horse on the left is truly “bridled.” Every movement it makes, the way he carries himself, where each foot goes, is controlled by the rider. The horse on the right may be wearing a bridle, but is not yet bridled. Though the rider is pulling on the rein, he is not moving, and when he does, it will be rough and jerky movements that hardly reflect the end goals of the rider.
As a Christian, the analogy follows closely. If my tongue runs wild, saying whatever whenever, I am unbridled, resisting the tug of the Spirit on my reins. I remember the first time I actually said the f-bomb. I was completely appalled. Shocked. Ashamed. My conscience was still sensitive to the Spirit’s leading on my reins. But, like a horse that fights the trainer, I quickly grew resistant, allowing my tongue to become less and less bridled.
As a rider, when I use a tight rein on a horse, my goal is not just to control the direction and general movement of that horse, but to very directly and specifically guide the horse. The rein is tight, the horse has no room to be foolish, but its every step is guided. Is my every word guided by the Holy Spirit? Obviously not. But how do I do that? After some brainstorming with a group of fellow Christians, my challenge for the weeks ahead is to think of three things I’m grateful for every time I think or say anything negative. For me, I decided to include complaining in that long list of things that need to be reined in.
So there you have it: a blog post with no answers, no success story, and no grand victory. Maybe by next time I post, I can tell you that I’m actually making some headway in this battle against sin. Keep me in your prayers, friends!
- The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, by Timothy Keller
- “The Seduction of the World,” by R.C. Sproul
- “Gospel Amnesia,” by Luma Simms
- Philippians 2:12-18