Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:25-32 (NIV)
We’ve got fleas in our house again. Last summer, we spent a ton of money on pesticides both preventative and aggressive. Normally, we do not use pesticides because they are bad for the environment and for us. In fact, when my oldest boy was little, I discovered that he was getting sick the same time each month. We traced it to pest control, and I insisted that the maintenance workers at his school abstain from spraying the classroom for bugs. However, when you lay awake all night scratching because there are fleas in your bed, you bring out the heavy artillery. Fortunately, the only rooms where we have carpet are the bedrooms, but we also had to spray the furniture because the dogs sleep on the couches. Lucy is particularly susceptible to fleas. She always has one or two on her, and we were spraying and bathing her regularly to try and keep them off of her. Then, the fleas seemed to disappear, so we were not as vigilante about fighting them. Now, they are back and we have resumed picking them off our legs, searching the bed to make sure that they are not in it and spraying the rugs and furniture again. It is so hard to get rid of them. And it all started with just one flea. We saw it and killed it, but before we knew it, the house was full of them again. They are so persistent and multiply so quickly. I thought about those fleas tonight when I heard a speaker at church talk about some things our congregation needs to do to rebuild. He emphasized over and over how important it is for building trust and fellowship as well as working together to do the ministries we are called to do that we guard our tongues. He noted that we must speak only truth. That we must set aside gossip and innuendo. That means not only avoiding being gossips, but listening to it as well. He spoke on the importance of apology and forgiveness as well as being kind. He did not say that we all have to agree. We just have to respect each other’s opinions and agree to disagree without hate or anger. Rebuilding will take honest communication and fellowship, creating relationships with each other that will sustain us in times of conflict and allow us to get beyond feelings to the heart of what we are called to do. Dissention starts with one word and spread like wildfire through a church. It can be said in haste without thought or it can be said deliberately intending to hurt. As James 3 says, one tongue can steer an entire ship just like a rudder, and if we are not careful, our ship will be steered upon the rocks. Just like the flea that I mash to kill, guard your tongue and squelch your words. Otherwise, whether it is one flea or one word, the suffering just grows and multiplies.