The Most-Waived Right

A law enforcement friend told me that most often when he interviews a subject, he doesn’t have any problems getting information out of him. Most of us talk entirely too much, even when it hurts our cause.

In Romans 14, when Paul is dealing with controversies about meat sacrificed to idols and holy days and a whole manner of first century issues, he gives some surprising instructions: “So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God.” (Romans 14:22 NIV)

Paul might agree that most of us talk entirely too much.

I have lots of opinions, feelings, ideas, and thoughts, and just like for you, all of them are correct. As my old friend “Makk Truck” used to say, “That’s my opinion and it ought to be yours!”

One of the great markers of wisdom is the ability to know when to share our genius insights and when to keep our mouths shut. I haven’t figured that one out quite yet, but if I ever do, should I tell you the secret?

Fortunately Paul gives us an answer anyway in Ephesians 4:29. “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouth.” Mostly you think of 4-letter words when you hear this line, and that’s true enough, but the word “corrupt” means something rotten that spreads decay. Can you think of a time when someone spoke to you in a way that let the air out of your tires? A time when gossip slandered a friend and poisoned a group? He continues, “…but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Let’s lean into our right to remain silent a little more, unless waiving that right builds up, fits the moment, and spreads grace.

Heckling the Preacher

In 1885 a rowdy riverboat captain decided to go to a tent revival in downtown Nashville.

He was rich, making a fortune off the family riverboat business. Not only did his boats provide transportation for goods and people, they were the 1885 version of the party barge. He made his money off drunkenness, gambling, and “assorted other vices.”

He didn’t go to church to hear the preaching. He didn’t go out of a sense of obligation. He didn’t go because he loved the Lord. He wasn’t even there out of a sense of curiosity.

He went because he thought it sounded fun to heckle the preacher.

I wish that May 10, 1885 sermon had been recorded, because something amazing happened. That riverboat captain was convicted and converted. He left meeting committed to gospel ideas. He was so convinced that he pledged $100,000 (in 1885 money!) to construct a permanent meetinghouse large enough for every person in Nashville who wanted to hear preaching in this new Union Gospel Tabernacle.

After Thomas Green Ryman’s death, the building took on the name you and I know, the Ryman Auditorium, the mother church of country music, which was first dedicated to the work of the church.

We never know what someone’s motivation might be for coming to worship, but by the grace of God, sometimes it has changed by the time they leave. And even if it hasn’t, “Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.” (Philippians 1;18)

Reactions and Overreactions

Before we have time to think, we react.

In Luke 9:51-55, Jesus was traveling toward Jerusalem when a Samaritan village chose not to receive him. James and John reacted. They said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”

It was reasonable for them to be emotional about their rejection of Jesus. Their action was unkind and inhospitable. They could be sad or mad or frustrated or any combination of those things, but I think that they over-reacted because Jesus immediately turned and rebuked them. Some manuscripts add a line to the end of verse 56: “The Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” (KJV). Their overreaction caused them to miss the point and forget their place.

It’s reasonable for me to be frustrated when someone says or does something silly, but I need to take care to keep my overreactions in check. Proverbs says that “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.”