The Ultimate Injunction
Speech is amazing. We take it for granted, but it is incredible. Which is why parents get so excited when a baby says its first word, and why we are always interested in what someone’s last words are, before death snatches them away. Words have the power to start and end wars, to break and mend hearts, to create and to destroy. Half a billion Facebook users fill the world with words. 300 billion emails sent every day deliver a torrent of words. Trillions of text messages keep billions of phones beeping away, and are developing a whole new coded language – as well as strangely shaped thumbs.
It is words that get us into trouble too, and the scriptures are full of instructions to tame the tongue. As James so memorably expresses it, “the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness.” (James 3:6)
Over recent months we have seen various attempts to gag words that might be damaging, or embarrassing, and the impossibility of achieving this. In the wired world of instant, constant, permanent and global communication (as Rick Warren memorably phrased it) trying to stop the flow of words is like wrestling with the wind. From Wikileaks to super injunctions our desire to hear words that others don’t want us to hear has proved insatiable.
Of course, the Bible also warns us about this insatiability. The book of Proverbs contains many warnings about gossip (which is what much of our news is) and how we use our tongues, and tells us, “The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.” (Pr 18:8)
For the disciple of Jesus there must be a biblical caution, then, in how we respond to the current feeding frenzy on Twitters latest revelations. Because we are human, and communication is key to who we are, we tend to immediately sniff out the tastiness of gossip, and like sharks scenting blood indiscriminately dive in wanting to taste more. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s love child? Ryan Giggs’ affair? Tell me more… But as Christians we might be wiser to close our ears at this point, and quickly move on. Feeding on this stuff – allowing it “into the inner parts of the body” – will in the end make us sick.
But there is then the even starker biblical caution, that nothing of what we say or do will remain hidden – one day “books will be opened” and no super injunction, act of censorship, or shutting down of Google will keep quiet our offences against man and God. On that day our only hope will be that rather than being held up to universal shame and ridicule, and eternal judgment, God will declare that our sins are remembered no more, and removed as far as East is from West, because his Son has borne our charge.
At the cross, Christ bore all the scorn. Words were spoken against him, and nailed over his head, which mocked the king of glory. Yet through his sacrifice all the words of rejection and judgment that should be spoken by a holy God over us have been rendered silent.
And for that, we should be eternally grateful, and raise a constant tongue of praise!