This past week, we witnessed the first presidential debate for the 2020 election coming in November. It was depressing, distasteful, disappointing, discouraging, demeaning, disgusting, disrespectful, and represented an all-time low in American politics.
For an hour and a half, on national television, two 70-plus-year-old men acted like toddlers fighting over a teething toy. It was an egregious display of childishness and immaturity.
One that deserves the strongest rebuke and repudiation from both parties, fellow politicians and every American.
It didn’t just cross a line, it obliterated it.
Some would say we’ve been moving this direction for a long time with the poisonous proliferation of virtually everything political. The absolute lack of civility among “public servants” in public venues for all to see. Made-for-TV moments where senators, congressmen and congresswomen degrade, defame and even attempt to destroy each other and those who come before them.
But it’s not just in Washington or Cleveland where this type of reprehensible behavior takes place. You can find it regularly on Facebook and see it easily on Twitter. You can hear it on the radio and watch it on TV talk shows. And it’s not just the evening news. Many of the morning news programs often start the day with an offensive attack of some kind meant to do harm, sway public opinion and raise ratings. Even some late night talk shows have gotten in the habit of trashing politicians and public figures for the same self-serving reasons.
Too often, you can find it just as easily at your local city council or school board meeting as you can in the hallowed halls of Congress or the Senate Chambers in Washington, D.C.
"Tragically, the hatred and vitriol that too quickly drips from our lips or comes through the keys of our computer or cell phone is not only destroying politics, it’s also destroying people of every age, race, creed, community, organization and religion."
Tragically, the hatred and vitriol that too quickly drips from our lips or comes through the keys of our computer or cell phone is not only destroying politics, it’s also destroying people of every age, race, creed, community, organization and religion.
It’s destroying us. All of us … and it's time to stop it.
The Bible says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). James warned, “The tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell” (James 3:6).
He also warned, “No human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8).
So what do we do? We need to stop it. And in order to do that, we’re going to need some help … lots of it.
Let me be clear, you don’t have to be a Christian to “tame your tongue” and control your conversation. But if you are a Christian, you have to. There’s no debating that. It’s just a matter of doing it and if you’re not doing it, you’re not doing what the Bible clearly says to do.
Paul said, “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. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:29-32).
He also said, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6).
God didn’t create us to win arguments. He created us to win people to Christ. Proverbs 11:30 says, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise.” One of the dumbest things we can do is argue with and attack others.
Trying to win arguments doesn’t win people to faith in Christ and making our point won’t point people to Him. Quite the contrary, it will make people want to get as far away from us as possible and make it much harder for anyone else to reach them with the Gospel.
JESUS issued a sobering warning about our words in Matthew 12:36-37, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
In light of that, listen again to His call to Christians everywhere: “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16).
When I was seven years old, the children’s leaders in my church taught us a song called, “O Be Careful, Little Eyes.” Here are some of the lyrics:
O be careful little eyes what you see
O be careful little eyes what you see
For the Father up above
Is looking down in love
So, be careful little eyes what you see
There was a verse that said, “O be careful little ears what you hear.” And one that said, “O be careful little hands what you do.” There was a verse that said, “O be careful little feet where you go,” and one that said, “O be careful little mouth what you say.”
Maybe the most effective thing we could do to make sure we never have another episode like this past Tuesday night, or anything like it, would be to sing that little song before we say anything. Or at least rehearse that last verse before we speak.
David’s words in Psalm 19:14 make more sense to me today than ever before. He was actually asking the Lord for help when He prayed, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”
Some would say we don’t have a prayer trying to change the conversation in America.
I think we do.
© 2020. Barry L. Cameron
Barry L. Cameron has been the Senior Pastor of Crossroads since 1992 when the church was averaging 188 in morning worship. Pastor Cameron and his wife, Janis, have three children and two grandsons. He’s the author of the bestseller: The ABCs of Financial Freedom, Contagious Generosity, and The Financial Freedom Workbook. The Cameron family has been completely debt free since November 2001.