Spirit & Truth # 261
By Greg Smith
Athletes wear mouth guards to protect against anything that might go into their mouth—a ball, a foot, or the ground. In the spiritual life, we need mouth guards as well, not to protect us from what might go into the mouth, but from what might come out. Jesus said, “What goes into a man's mouth does not make him 'unclean,' but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him 'unclean (Matthew 15:11).'" A spiritual mouth guard protects not against violence to the mouth, but against violence from the mouth.
In Psalm 141:1-4a, King David “O Lord, I call to you; come quickly to me. Hear my voice when I call to you. May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice. Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil.”
Yesterday, I had to make a difficult phone call to someone I’ve known for twenty years. Without getting into the details, I’ll just say that I had to tell the person that his actions toward my family were unacceptable, and that even though he called himself our friend, he didn’t fit into that category in my mind. I had to ask him to cut off all contact from us—permanently. I have to admit that I was angry when I spoke to him on the phone.
The man on the other end of the line was stunned at my anger. “But you’re a minister!” he said. Personally, I was amazed that he thought a minister shouldn’t ever be angry. Ephesians 4:26 says that it’s all right to be angry at times. “Be angry, and yet do not sin,” it says. I found that by keeping a guard on my mouth, I allowed myself to be angry, and yet not cross the line into sin.
“Ephesians 4:26 also says, “Do not let the sun go down on your anger.” After that difficult conversation at 11:00 at night, I was exhausted—but I didn’t want to go to bed. I didn’t want to carry those negative emotions with me into dreamland. So I put on an old comedy TV show and laughed and laughed until I felt better. When you’re angry, don’t sin. When you’re angry, don’t hold onto it. Be angry—it’s okay to be angry—but let it go quickly. Don’t carry it with you into the next day.
This past Sunday I shared with my church Jesus’ words to his enemies the Pharisees in John 8:26. “I have much to say about you and much to condemn, but I won’t. For I say only what I have heard from the one who sent me, and he is completely truthful.” Jesus showed us that just because you’re thinking something, that doesn’t mean you have to say it. You can keep it to yourself, especially if you know if would be sinful to say. It’s all right to be angry—but don’t sin. When you’re angry, do what David did. Cry out to God. Pray. Ask the Lord to set a guard over your lips, that you might not be drawn to evil.