Summary: Our words are important not only so that we don’t hurt others but that we do not close the door on God’s blessing in our life.

Iliff and Saltillo United Methodist Churches

March 16, 2003

Second Sunday of Lent

“Use Caution”: Watch Your Mouths

I Peter 3:8-15

Introduction: Today’s scripture was written to Christians living in a pagan society where Christianity was being attacked and Christians were persecuted and even put to death for their faith. Peter was calling them to grow into maturity in their lifestyles toward others. It was a call to right living in word as well as in their actions. He wanted these qualities to be the norm in a Christian’s life rather than the exception to the rule. The natural response was to respond to hostility with retaliation and hateful cutting words. Peter is telling them, “No, you should respond in a different way--with gentleness--the quality that trusts God to do the work of changing people and attitudes.”

Peter had developed these qualities over a long period of time the hard way. In his early days with Christ these attitudes did not come naturally to him. He was impulsive, strong willed, and he was always getting his foot in his mouth and saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. He had a difficult time and suffered the consequences many times.

James says, “you can tame a tiger but you can’t tame a tongue” (James 3:7 Message Bible). Peter probably would agree with this statement. This sums up the problem that Peter had experienced earlier in his life and that the Christians under his care were experiencing as well. Today’s message is entitled, “Use Caution”: Watch Your Mouths.” Each of us at one time or another have a problem with our mouths. Especially when people rub us the wrong way. What can we learn from today’s scripture that will help us in this area of our life?

1. What Do We Need to Watch Out For?: We need to watch out for both direct and indirect things that we say to hurt people. We seem to fail time after time in our efforts to say and do what pleases the Lord. We blow it time after time.

STORY: A teenager came home from choir practice early one evening. His father was couldn’t believe it. The boy had never come home early from anything. Looking over his paper he asked, "What brings you back so soon?" "We had to call off choir practice for this week," the boy replied. "The organist and the choir director got in a terrible argument about how to sing `Love Divine,’ so we quit for tonight."

In this chapter Peter gives five characteristics that, if put into practice, will help us in what we say and how we say it. Peter knew that all of these characteristics were interrelated in the process of our Christian growth and maturity. He says to live in

1. harmony

2. sympathy

3. love

4. compassion

5. humility.

How does this relate to our speech? He knew that if people lived in harmony with one another that there would be less opportunity for heated disagreements in which verbal hurt is hurled at one another. Romans 12:16 says also to “live in harmony with one another... Do not be proud,... do not be conceited.” Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If possible, as far as it depends on on you, live at peace with everyone.”

He said to begin to pursue similar goals of being a Christian in a pagan world--to let Christ show through your life. If we were consious of pointing others to Christ as our primary goal, we probably wouldn’t tear others down with our words. In our fallen world it is considered acceptable by some to tear people down verbally or to get back at them if we feel hurt. Jesus came up with a different idea that most of us don’t put into practice or at least not very often. He told his disciples in Matthew 5:3, “if someone strikes you on the right cheek turn to him the other also...”

Second, Peter also says live in sympathy by being responsive to other’s needs and in love by treating each other as brothers and sisters. Jesus said to even go beyond that. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Jesus’ readiness to pay back wrongs by praying for the offenders goes a long way toward avoiding hateful insults and quarrels that break out among people.

QUOTE: Abraham Lincoln was once being criticized for his attitude towards his enemies. "Why do you try to make friends with them>? a colleague asked. "You should try to destroy them." Am I not destroying my enemies." the President asked gently, "when I make them my friends?"

In God’s kingdom revenge is unacceptable behavior as is insulting a person no matter how INDIRECTLY it is done.

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