Kathy and I have most of our family living in Memphis and so this is where the clan converges for the holidays. Back when the families had recently immigrated to the States, Thanksgiving was a matter of dispute. The newly arrived contingent wanted to impose some South African recipes on the celebration but I balked, fussed, and fumed. I insisted that our children were being raised as Americans and deserved a traditional American feast. Admittedly, I have a strong gastronomic loyalty to the meal myself. And so it was decided, Thanksgiving would include turkey, dressing, and pie. It’s a thoroughly traditional affair.
Black Friday is less defined. Inevitably, the girls find their way to the stores and the boys are left to their own devices. This year we solved our aimlessness by going to a shooting range, renting some weapons, and aerating a paper target. It was massive fun! Starting with a .40 Smithfield we then rotated through a 9mm Smith & Wesson and a Beretta of the same caliber. In all, we shot 150 rounds (none too accurately, I must admit).
While I took a juvenile delight in shooting these firearms, I was equally satisfied in watching people. An avid people-watcher, this is habitual behavior for me and I will study whomever my eye finds. What was different about this environment was the mass of weaponry. These people looked no different from the crowds in the mall except they were bristling with firearms of every shape and size. And looking at this embodiment of the second amendment, I was left wondering if I was in a safe environment. On one hand, I was surrounded by strangers who were shooting deadly weapons all around me—hardly a comforting thought. On the other hand, I was surrounded by armed companions who would be quick to end any threat. I ultimately concluded that if everyone stayed within their lane, I was safer at the range than in the mall.
As I reflected on my time amongst those shooters, I began to see others differently. In a sense, I realize that everyone is packing heat. While everyone isn’t carrying a concealed weapon, everyone can fire off at will. Speech comes easily, but the consequences of our words are sometimes impossible to undo. The power of our words can be incredibly destructive. James describes indiscriminate speech as a vicious fire that can consume the entire course of life. We know this and yet we easily slip into careless talk.
Gossip and slander are excused as ‘sharing’ and biting criticism is softened with “bless his heart”. We thoughtlessly puncture confidence and meanly cut the heart just because we have the words to wield. Oh, if only we would be more cautious with our tongues. “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” (James 3:9–10, ESV)
I support the right to bear arms. I also support the restrictions that ensure the safe practice of those arms. Similarly, I celebrate our freedom of speech. However, I wish that Christians realized that there are restrictions to this freedom. We are subject to a higher authority than the State and He has limited what we are free to say.
“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.” (Ephesians 4:29, ESV)