“The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
Proverbs 12:18 (NIV)
This past weekend, my family enjoyed an outdoor Christmas festival on a small town square. We’ve attended this event for a few years now, and my daughter and her friend always have certain things they make it a point to see and do while we’re there. This particular year, though, the girls discovered a new favorite thing which, interestingly enough, was juxtaposed with a least favorite thing.
As we approached the square, we were greeted on the street corner by a man standing on a bucket and shouting out hateful words about gender roles in our society while quoting scripture from Isaiah. We walked past him as fast as we could, and while I couldn’t tell you exactly which verses he quoted, I was still shocked by the anger in his voice.
Less than two minutes later, as we walked down the same sidewalk, we passed in front of a beauty salon where we were invited to have free hot chocolate, coffee and homemade cake! The two young girls serving the snacks told our girls that they could go inside the salon and get their faces painted. Of course, we did, and it was the best thing ever.
While Caroline and Madison were being transformed into reindeer decked with colored lights, Bert and I enjoyed looking around the salon that looked like the one from the movie Steel Magnolias, and visiting with the owner who had been there for more than 40 years. The free face painting and tasty treats were sponsored by a local church, just like the man on the corner, but what a difference in their approach!
The two groups representing Jesus were separated by only a few blocks in distance, but they were miles apart in terms of their compassion and kindness. Proverbs 12:18 describes these two approaches to sharing our faith with others: we can use rude and reckless words to startle people and push them away, or we can speak with the wisdom and encouragement that come directly from God.
When you share your own beliefs, are you more like the “free snacks” group or the “shouting prophet”? You never know what is going on with any person you encounter, so it is important that our words speak healing and life to others. Everybody needs hope, and we should carry that, and not criticism, to those we meet.