Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.—James 1:19
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. —James 3:9-12
Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor? —James 4:11-12
During this season of social/physical distancing, it’s important that we are still engaging with others in a biblical way. We shouldn’t let the distancing make us draw away from others. I was taking a walk recently and I noticed every time I saw a person on the sidewalk, I was paying so much attention to making sure I was 6 feet away from them. Thoughts crossed my mind like, should I cross the street, should I walk into the dirt, should I look away when they pass? I used to smile and wave at people I would walk by and even say hello. I don’t want this season of distancing to turn into a season of avoidance or frustration with others. While we are stressed and have heavy burdens, we should make sure we are displaying an attitude that reflects Jesus to others.
James gives us great instructions on how we should use our words and our actions to bless others. He gives three simple reminders: be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. In this season, everyone is going through something. There is some kind of anxiety, something that is causing difficulty so it’s especially important that we take the time to listen to each other. Allow yourself to be curious with your friends and family and hear how they are processing. Then respond slowly and intentionally. Be encouraging.
In addition, it may be frustrating that others are not dealing with COVID-19 the same way you are. Maybe they live in a different state and have different lockdown requirements. Remember James’ words to be slow to become angry. Take this time to be patient with others. Show Jesus’ love and patience to those around you, Believers and nonbelievers. Pray for them and remind them God is still in control.
James details and reminds us of the power we have in what comes out of our mouths. It may be easy to judge and talk about others, but we shouldn’t criticize or slander our neighbor. We have an incredible opportunity and the power to speak life-giving words to others in a very difficult season. Use this time to reach out to those around you; maybe send them a text or email, write them a note, or call them. Everyone could use some encouragement and you will most likely be blessed as well as you are able to bless others.
I encourage you to think about those you are interacting with, whether it’s your friends, family or coworkers. Take stock of how you can be a voice of encouragement in their lives. Write down their names and determine steps on how you can reach out and listen to what they’re going through, and share a Scripture or other words of affirmation that bless them.
Practical Takeaway: Make a list of others you are interacting with and determine steps to bless them through your words.