“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29
Of all of the commitments we make to each other in the Capstone Community Covenant, the commitment to pursue edifying speech is arguably the most challenging. We should expect it to be difficult. James, the brother of Jesus, writes that no human being can tame the tongue. He declares, “It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people, who are made in the likeness of God.” The tongue is quite literally unable to just give it a break. It will not rest. It seems it is always seeking to be an outlet for the evil stored up inside of us. The tongue is restless and full of deadly poison because the heart contains evil treasure; as Jesus explains, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45)
If we are honest, Jesus’ teaching is troubling. He takes away the excuses, “I didn’t mean what I said,” or “I was just venting,” or “I shared it out of genuine concern,” or, “I’m just direct and honest.” When we speak ill about others, we do so because inside of us we have stored up evil treasures: pride, resentment, bitterness, vengeance, and an idolatrous desire to be affirmed by people rather than by God. We treat as a trivial thing our neighbor, who is made in the image of God. When we store up good treasures in our hearts—treasures such as humility, grace, charity, gratitude, mercy, and reverence—we will find our tongues much less restless. Pondering and pursuing by daily habits the Good, True, and Beautiful in Jesus creates peaceful, edifying tongues that are not restless to speak. Virtues make us slow to speak and quick to listen (James 1:19), slow to seek to be understood and affirmed and quick to understand and affirm others. They tame the tongue under the direction of the Spirit of God.
This is why Paul writes in Galatians 5 that if we keep in step with the Spirit, we will not gratify the desires of the flesh but rather the desires of the Spirit himself. Included in the list of the works of the flesh are some of those most common evil treasures we store up and that spill over into corrupting speech: enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, and envy. When our objective becomes gratification of our base impulses rather than honoring God by loving our neighbor well, the tongue “sets the entire forest on fire,” as James writes. However, when we keep in step with the desires of the Spirt, we speak words marked by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are not attributes we have in and of ourselves. Rather, they are the fruit of God’s Spirit at work in our very beings.
The outcome of keeping in step with the Spirit with regard to conflicts in our school community will be God-honoring service, trust, and good will. The next time you are frustrated with another parent, someone else’s child, a teacher, an administrator, or policies and practices at the school, pray about your anger, frustration, or disappointment. Ask God to use it for His righteous purposes, which will always be bent toward redemption, reconciliation, and greater excellence for His name’s sake. As we promise in our covenant, “When conflicts arise we we will believe the best about each other and will speak directly with the party involved in the conflict to resolve it and to nurture our partnership. (Matthew 18:15-17) We will not resort to gossip or to spreading feelings of discontent to other members of our community.”
During our family interviews, we try to always speak about the centrality of this particular ethic. Our entire enterprise rests upon our submission to this hard work of submitting our hearts to the Spirit of God so that He can tame our tongue, take away its restlessness, and put it to work for good. Like a tiny rudder steers a monstrous ship, our tongues will determine the success of the Capstone mission. All of us struggle with taking circumstances into our own mouths by speaking too freely and often without enough prayer or grace. If we truly want to see the best for our children, our learners, and the Capstone community, we will need to commit ourselves daily to letting God have the reigns to our tongues. Given the choice between his taming power and ours, the choice is pretty obvious. Thank you for daily making that choice with me. Please join me in praying that God would make us humble and faithful to trust His ways of resolving conflict for the love of our community and the Glory of God.