The Language of a Good Neighbor

Hosea 8.7
They sow the wind
and reap the whirlwind.

Reflection: The Language of a Good Neighbor
By John Tillman

The words we speak plant seeds that come from our hearts. When those seeds are violent winds, we reap the whirlwind of violent actions.

When violent words fly through the air, via Twitter, Gab, email, or other means, bombs may soon follow. Where machine-gun-like blasts of vitriol cut through the airwaves, with the expressed intention of mowing down the opposition, it is only a matter of time before actual bullets fly.

Whenever tragedy strikes in our society, Fred Rogers’ quote from his mother about looking “for the helpers” comes to the forefront of our culture’s mind. In certain cases, however, some have started to reject the comforting use of this quote.

In our culture, no matter how popular or how widely seen as a societal good something is, sooner or later someone will start throwing rocks at it.

These critics are careful, so far, not to throw rocks at Rogers directly. Their target is people sharing the quote. They scoff that advice for children should bring comfort to and be so widely shared by adults.

Rogers show was never just for children. It was simple, but never simplistic. And it’s call to action for all of us is inherent to the comfort it brings.

In her book, The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers, Amy Hollingsworth recognized that Rogers’ show had an unmistakable biblical theme—be the good neighbor. Be the helper. But this moralistic challenge has to be empowered by an inner shift of perspective. Rogers explains:

“Evil would like nothing better than to have us feel awful about who we are…We’d look through those eyes at our neighbor, and see only what’s awful—in fact, look for what’s awful in our neighbor…but Jesus would want us to feel as good as possible about God’s creation within us, and…we would look through those eyes, and see what’s wonderful about our neighbor.”

Mister Rogers had a Christ-like understanding of the power of words and feelings. His simple guidance for children did not have an expiration date on it because it was based on principles of the gospel. Rogers connected being the good neighbor to having a Christlike view of ourselves and looking at, and speaking to, our neighbor with that perspective.

May we abstain from the language of political leaders intending to seek and destroy.
May we embrace the language of Christ intent on seeking and saving that which is lost.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Help me, O Lord my God; save me for your mercy’s sake. — Psalm 109.25

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Hosea 8 (Listen – 1:58)
Psalm 123-125 (Listen – 1:52)

This Weekend’s Readings
Hosea 9 (Listen – 2:52) Psalm 126-128 (Listen – 1:58)
Hosea 10 (Listen – 2:47) Psalm 129-131 (Listen – 2:03)

Additional Reading
Read More about Redeeming Speech
The Talmud compares hateful speech to one of the most destructive diseases of their day: Leprosy. The outside rots because the inside is incurably ill. Yet the promise of Scripture is that—through Christ—all are healed, all are made new, all are redeemed.

Read More about Killing With our Hearts
“I do not kill with my gun…I kill with my heart.” Stephen King’s fictional Gunslingers understand Christ’s teaching about murder in a deeper way than some Christians.

Support our Work
Each month over 22,000 Park Forum email devotionals are read around the world. Support our readers with a monthly or a one time donation.

Redeeming Speech

Psalm 120.2-3
Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue. What shall be given to you, and what more shall be done to you, you deceitful tongue?

Hosea 7.3
They delight the king with their wickedness,
the princes with their lies.

Reflection: Redeeming Speech
The Park Forum

In order to understand the true nature of a person’s heart, ancient Jews believed, you looked to his words. “Out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks,” Jesus observed. It was a belief widely held in the ancient world; centuries later the Babylonian Talmud imagined a conversation between God and a man’s words:

Said the Holy One, blessed be he, to the tongue, “All the parts of the human body stand upright, but you recline. All the parts of the human body are outside, but you are inside. Not only so, but I have set up as protection for you two walls, one of bone (teeth) and one of flesh (cheeks).”

Though the tongue may recline, it is rarely at rest. ”Lips are soft; but when they are ‘lying’ lips they suck away the life of character and are as murderous as razors,” Charles Haddon Spurgeon remarks:

Lips should never be red with the blood of honest men’s reputes, nor salved with malicious falsehoods. The faculty of speech becomes a curse when it is degraded into a mean weapon for smiting men behind their backs. Those who fawn and flatter, too, and all the while have enmity in their hearts, are horrible beings; they are the seed of the devil, and he works in them after his own deceptive nature.

The authors of Scripture react viscerally to malicious and deceptive words, Spurgeon explains, because they are the language of sin:

The Psalmist seems lost to suggest a fitting punishment. It is the worst of offenses—this detraction, calumny, and slander. Judgment sharp and crushing would be measured out to it if men were visited for their transgressions. But what punishment could be heavy enough?

And though Christ absorbed the eternal burden of sin, each broken action has repercussions in our daily lives. The Talmud compares the effects of gossip and hateful speech to one of the most destructive diseases of their day:

The Hebrew for the words “I will destroy” and “in perpetuity” are both derived from one and the same root. Hence… the punishment of destruction will take the form of [leprosy].

Leprosy results in a person’s total disconnection from their community. The outside rots because the inside is incurably ill. Yet the promise of Scripture is that—through Christ—all are healed, all are made new, all are redeemed.

*For Talmud references, see b. Arak. 3:5, II.4.B, D.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all who dwell in the world stand in awe of him. — Psalm 33.8

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Hosea 7 (Listen – 2:19)
Psalm 120-122 (Listen – 2:12)

Additional Reading
Read More about Resisting in Faith
Daniel resists by doing something only a person of faith can do. He resists by serving unconditionally. He resists by helping. He resists by taking action to save the lives of men who will eventually turn against him and conspire to throw him in a pit of lions.

Read More about Christian Civility
Two years ago Steven wondered how powerful it would be if the Church took the lead in restoring public civility. We are still wondering what that would look like…

Support our Work
Each month over 22,000 Park Forum email devotionals are read around the world. Support our readers with a monthly or a one time donation.

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