Our kids had reached the stage where we felt it was safe to leave them in the house alone for a short time. We’d not long moved into a rented house on the outskirts of town and had gone over to a friend’s house. The phone rang. “There are some bulls in the garden. Should I just open the gate and push them out?” Definitive NO. They had pushed their way from the farm field behind under worn fencing. I called the local police station, who contacted the farmer. He sent his young son (about 9 years old!) to escort them off the premises. Turned out they were still quite young, and not that dangerous, if you know how to handle them. Still a scary moment for us townies.
Another thing, though, if they are full grown. In Exodus 21:28-35, the laws were set down for problems occurring if these magnificent but terrible beasts escaped and caused damage. In short, the responsibility was squarely on the owners, to motivate them to pen the creatures wisely and effectively, to prevent such events. Complacency was not an option. Worn fences would cost them very dear.
James 3:7-8 tells us that while it is possible to tame all kinds of animals, the tongue cannot be tamed. We daily read of the damage done by ‘trolling’ on social media sites – sending vile hate messages, causing terrible fear, and even suicide for the recipient. But it doesn’t take that much to hurt someone badly, by saying something inappropriate. It doesn’t even have to be intentional, just unthinking. And once they’re out there, words cannot be recalled. There is no ‘undo’ button on life. Words can slip out before we mean it. And we are responsible for the damage we allow to happen.
That’s why we need to keep our fences in good order.
- Don’t even think bad thoughts about other people – you can’t understand them fully.
- Develop the practice of only speaking positively to and about others.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to keep filling you – what you are full of is what spills out when you are knocked.
- Self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Allow him to develop it in you in every area of life.
And if it happens that you do hurt someone with wrong words, be quick to apologise and make good. Remember, you are responsible for the damage you allow to happen.