November 13, 2007
It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person. Matthew 15:11
Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder of Westminster, Maryland, was killed in Iraq.
It goes without saying Matthew’s family mourned his death and sacrifice. The family was joined in their pain and supported through their loss by countless friends, many of whom were Christians.
That is the way it should be. No matter how an individual feels about the war, the loss of a young son or daughter is a tragedy, which should be universally respected by all. That this was not the case when the Corporal was buried is a tragedy. That his funeral rites were disrupted by Christians carrying signs reading, “Thank God for dead soldiers” is a terrible embarrassment to the cause of Christ.
Feeling as I do, it wasn’t upsetting when, last week, I heard a federal jury had awarded $2.9 million in compensatory damages, $6 million dollars in punitive damages and $2 million dollars for emotional distress be paid by the church to the Corporal’s father.
Now, if you’ve reached this point in the devotion, you may be wondering, “Who is the pastor, and what is the denomination of his church?” I could tell you, but I won’t. I’m not going to give him more publicity; I’m not going to get involved in a discussion on First Amendment rights, and I’m not going to be accused of name calling or finger pointing. That’s not the purpose of this devotion.
It is far better to reflect on the words of the Savior: “It’s not what goes into the mouth of a person that defiles him; it’s what comes out of his mouth which causes him to be unclean.” Those words of our Lord were not just pious platitudes. While Jesus had no problems condemning sin or speaking honestly to people, He was always conscious of the power of His words and used them appropriately.
It is a lesson that every Christian should remember. We have been entrusted with the wonderful opportunity of sharing the Savior’s story of salvation with sinners around the world. While we should never treat sin as less than the disobedient and damnable act that it is, our words must always be spoken in tones of love. That is what the Savior has done for us; it is what we should do for others.
Scripture is clear: the world will always be offended by the cross and the forgiveness, which the Savior won for us there and, at the open tomb. We must, as Christ’s redeemed brothers and sisters, do all we can to make sure our words do not cloud that cross or confuse its saving message.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Ps 19:14) In Your Name I pray it. Amen.
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries