“Never has anyone spoken like this” (John 7:46) Thus said the soldiers who were assigned to bring Jesus for judgement, to the Pharisees and the law makers. This was the reply given by the soldiers to the leaders who questioned them in anger when they returned without arresting Jesus – that they had never seen a man who spoke like Jesus did.
Jesus’ way of speaking attracted and mesmerised everyone He met. Jesus was well aware of how to speak and reply to anyone, according to the circumstance. Jesus did not speak to the Pharisees and lawmakers in the same way, as He spoke to the sinners, tax collectors and the sick; it was totally different. He spoke at the Temple of Jerusalem holding a whip, He spoke at the tomb of Lazarus shedding tears. He spoke into each situation.
The Word of God teaches us, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6). St. Paul proclaims that we should know how to speak to everyone graciously and know how we ought to answer everyone. A person should not speak to his spouse in the same way as he speaks to his parents. He should not speak to his children in the same way as he speaks to his spouse. He should not speak to his neighbours and co-workers in the same way as he speaks to his children. There is also a way in which one should speak to teachers, leaders and the religious. You must know how to speak to each and every person. “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear”. (Ephesians 4:29).
One’s talk should be able to attract the audience and make them grow spiritually and in a way that will allow them to progress in life, based on the situation. Discussing one person behind his or her back or speaking things to bring about the downfall of another – is not Christlike behaviour.
In this context, I am reminded of something that I read in a spiritual book. It is about a unique bird which lives in the “Taurus Mountains” of South Turkey. These birds make a kind of noise while they fly. Upon hearing this noise, big vultures attack and eat them. These birds gradually became aware of the danger they exposed themselves to, because of the sounds they made while flying. Eventually, the birds trained themselves to carry a small piece of stone in each of their beaks. When they flew without making a noise, the danger was averted. Even birds learned the value of knowing when to remain silent and when to make a noise, the writer says.
Many problems arise among human beings because of the loose talks by many people. So, to save relationships, place a stone in your mouth if you are itching to speak evil about people behind their backs, criticise, gossip or wound someone. And if you have wounded someone, use your tongue to apologise. If you keep a stone of silence, many souls will be saved from danger! You may feel that this advice is a joke, but in many cases and in certain situations, this advice is meaningful.
Apostle Paul teaches us not to move from house to house being idle and spreading gossip. “Besides that, they learn to be idle, gadding about from house to house; and they are not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not say” (1 Timothy 5:13)
Some people communicate just to spread gossip and spoil relationships. Many people suffer and live wounded and in pain because of such things that many Christians do. Some deep friendships and even marital relations are also broken, because of such bad propaganda. Let your actions not bring shame to your God.
The Word of God calls people who speak wisely as knowledgeable. At the same time others are called ignorant. “The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom and their tongues speak justice” (Psalms 37:30). “The talk of fools is a rod for their backs, but the lips of the wise preserve them” (Proverbs 14:3) Do you speak up for justice? Do you know when to tackle anything unfair done to the vulnerable?
If we do not listen wisely and speak kindly, we may lead ourselves into some traps or cause endless trouble. Once I met three women who were addicted to alcohol. They could not even continue their education because of their addiction. They revealed the cause to me – one of their fellow students had a stomach-related illness which made her belly look bloated. These three often teased the woman in public and in private. They taunted her unkindly, asking her how many months pregnant she was and when her baby was due. As she could not take the insults hurled at herself anymore, one day, the woman committed suicide. These three women blamed themselves for their friend’s death and their guilt led to them alcohol addiction, which in turn was ruining their lives. “You are snared by the utterance of your lips, caught by the words of your mouth?” (Proverbs 6:2) Be aware of what you are doing to others with your words – in public or privately.
You can understand the character of a person when you listen to his or her talk. “The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks”. (Luke 6:45). Even the people who were against Jesus, had a good opinion of Him in secret. Nobody had spoken like Him. The main reason behind the gracious speech of Jesus was His continuous relationship with His Father. “For I have not spoken on my own, but the Father who sent me has Himself given me a commandment about what to say and what to speak” (John 12:49). Jesus’ way of talking should be an example for us. Your own continuous relationship with Jesus will lead you to speak gracefully.
Ever loving Jesus, the way You spoke was attractive and mesmerised even Your enemies. Help me to make You an example and follow the way You speak. Teach me how to speak and reply to each and every one, help me not speak evil and protect me with Your Precious Blood, bless me with a gracious and attractive speech. Amen.
By Fr Biju Koonan
Fr Biju Koonan is one of Christ & Co.’s Spiritual Advisers. He is the Director of Potta Retreat Centre, Kerala. He has held a host of roles such as Assistant Director, Popular Mission Retreat, Potta, Director, Daily Prayer Service, Potta Ashram, Assistant Director, Divine Retreat Centre, Muringoor, Assistant Director, Tabor Divine Retreat Centre, Kalyan, Mumbai and lately as Director, Ave Maria Divine Retreat Centre, in Kohima, Nagaland. Listen to his anointed preaching here: https://bit.ly/3fMUm03