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Andy Stoddard ~ Be Careful Little Tongue What You Say

We had a funny moment here in our house the other night. My oldest was filling out a form to take the ACT in the coming weeks.  She’s only in the 7th grade, but I like that they start taking it early.  She was filling out the form and she called me into the living room.  When I got there, she had a question: “for race, should I check Hispanic?”

Now, some of you may know my blond, curly-headed daughter, and are thinking, what kind of question is that?

There’s a reason why she asked me that question.  My biological mother (my Mama Sarah) was born in Ecuador.  Her father was from Ecuador and when he and my grandmother married, they lived there for a time.  So my mother was half-Hispanic.  That makes me a quarter Hispanic, and my daughter an eighth.  I told her that doesn’t count!

15726850_10157910846455043_3007133799599533041_nLooking at my child, you would probably never guess that’s part of her background.  Looking at me, you may have some inkling, but not likely.  I don’t know much of my Mama Sarah’s background, I don’t know too many stories, much of her life remains a mystery to me.

But I know that anytime I hear someone of Hispanic origin belittled or put down, it hurts a little.  I usually don’t say anything, but if you know anything about a Southern boy, we don’t like folks talkin’ about our mamas.  When I hear the race that she was part of (and through her, so I am) put down, it is hurtful.

Today, it seems quite often that the way that we talk about each other can be so very toxic.  I don’t know if social media has made this worse, but I know it isn’t helping.  I know that as Christians, we have allowed the culture to seep into our language.  The way that we talk about those with whom we disagree is toxic in our culture. And we have to guard against that as believers.

It isn’t just issues of race where people say things about or to others.  We see it in politics.  Liberals are “libatards,” conservatives are “nutjobs.”  In sports, people don’t even want to come to church after a rivalry game because of what folks will say to them.  We see it all over.

I often joke, I’m the nice conservative.  On most every issue, I’m pretty conservative.  But I am not threatened by those with whom I disagree. And I will not deny the humanity of those with whom I disagree.  And I will believe with all that I am that Jesus died for those with whom I disagree. I know that most all conservatives feel this way.  As do most all liberals.  Most everyone one of us believes in the inherent worth of everyone!  But the culture has a way of dehumanizing us, getting us to get angry at folks that we really don’t even know.

Monday is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr Day.  I think often of one of his quotes: “I have decided to stick with love.  Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

This age, this time, is no darker than any other.  I truly believe that. Ecclesiastes says that there is nothing new under the sun.  The culture that the church is called to incarnate has always been one that is full of sin and hatred. The church has always been called to love.  I guess with Dr. King Day coming up, along with my daughter’s question, I’ve been thinking about this a lot.

Christ died for the world.  White folk, black folk, Hispanic folk, Asian folk, all kinds of folk.  Conservative folk, liberal folk.  He died for them and he loves them.

And so must we.  Remember that song our mom’s taught us?

O be careful little eyes what you see
For the Father up above
Is looking down in love
So be careful little eyes what you see.

O be careful little ears what you hear
For the Father up above
Is looking down in love
So be careful little ears what you hear.

O be careful little tongue what you say
For the Father up above
Is looking down in love
So be careful little tongue what you say.

I don’t know how to fix everything in the world.  But I know I have to love.  I know I want to teach my children to love everyone, regardless.  I know I want to teach them to treat everyone the same, regardless.  And I know that I want to lead my church in a way that makes sure all the world knows that a Savior died for them.

So let’s be careful with our tongues.  With our social media.  With our very lives.  We have to love folks.  I want my children to always be loved, and to always love.

And I want that for all us.

May God’s grace call us closer to him, and to each other, in all things.