Thursday, September 07, 2000

The Big Issue of Small Tissue

'List the muscles of the tongue. How is the tongue controlled?

Two questions were asked in an ingenious bible study at a student fellowship meeting today. We looked at New Testament teaching on the use of our tongues. The tongue has fascinated scholars for ages. Leonardo da Vinci illustrated 24 muscles in the tongue, and we now know their motor innervation comes from the hypoglossal nerve. The motor nuclei of the twelfth cranial nerve is situated in the brainstem and receives cortical projections from the ipsilateral motor cortex. That’s the supranuclear control of the hypoglossal nerve (a question in my recent postgrad exams). Hence the tongue is voluntarily controlled.

But so what if we know all that? Well, first of all it tells us that speech is governed by our minds. Yet, the way we speak without thinking sometimes suggests that speech was a brainstem reflex! Speech lies in the domain of our responsibility and we decide what to say, not to say, and how to say it. It's been said that more Christians are slain by the tongue than by the sword. Many are the bloodied casualties of careless remarks. So, our tongues must come under the Spirit’s control. Some good lessons from Paul and James about the spiritual supranuclear control of the tongue are :- 1. Speech can be used for good or for evil. The tongue may be small tissue but nobody doubts its great potential to bless or to destroy

1. Our speech is never neutral, always having a profound effect on those who listen. Only what sort of effect will be determined by ourselves. We need to value our speech - it can do so much good, but it can also cause irreparable harm. We also badly need to cultivate a culture of using words to affirm, encourage and build others up. People can soar when we reveal, affirm and encourage the good in them.

2. Speech should be governed by the law of love. Love must take priority over our right to speak. We're congenital experts at picking out others' faults. And when we're offended, it's easy to go around keeping others 'well-informed'. But harsh criticism and gossip flies against God's plan for unity and love among the members of His Body. Love is the most important growth factor of this Body2. When I feel like passing comment on someone, I must first filter : Does what I say help to build up? Would it benefit him to hear it?3 And the next time I feel like gabbing behind someone’s back, I must think : 'Would I say this if the person I'm talking about was here?'

3. The tongue is part of the temple of the Holy Spirit. Our tongues, as far as I can tell, is part of our body we call the temple. ‘Take my lips, and let them be filled with messages from Thee!’ we sing Frances Havergal’s hymn with great feeling. But the same lips later joke and utter words that makes rubbish look sterile. I think remembering that my body is home for the eternal God is a great motivation for keeping the rot at bay4. I want to do my level best to keep this home clean for He who dwells in me5. Surely Jesus is our best example. He is our great defender – not condemning us but speaking good of us to the Father6. In love He gave up his rights, even to the point of dying for us on the cross. Let’s be defenders of the brethren and not condemners. And let’s restrain our right to speak with the wisdom that communicates love always.

Scripture References
1) James 3:4-5 ‘..take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.’

2) Eph 4:15-16 ‘Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.’

3) Eph 4:29 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.

4) James 3:9-10 ‘ With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.’

5) 1 Cor 6:19 ‘Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;’ 6) Rom 8:33-34 ‘Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died--more than that, who was raised to life--is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.’


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