Rich Mullins was (and still is) one of my favorite Christian songwriters.
It seems impossible that it was 20 years ago today that he was killed in a car accident. His music impacted me greatly and this song was one of my favorites.
“We Are Not As Strong As We Think We Are” opens with this stanza.
Well, it took the hand of God Almighty
To part the waters of the sea
But it only took one little lie
To separate you and me
Oh, we are not as strong as we think we are.
If only we could acknowledge that we are not as strong as we think we are and then live accordingly I believe we would see an amazing difference. We need God and community to be spiritually and emotionally healthy. Yet pride tells me that I am able to handle the situation. Fear tells me that telling the truth in love will only make it worse. So one little lie or misunderstanding dealt with in my own strength negates the strength of a God who could part the waters of the seas and could no doubt heal my pain. If I let Him.
I remember when a major food company recalled thousands of chili cans that were tainted with deadly toxins. A later follow-up to that story told about cans of chili exploding as the pressure built up inside the containers.
That is a messy and disgusting metaphor for how we deal with the internal toxins of gossip, slander and hurt. We seal them up and store them away hoping it will somehow be okay. But the toxins of gossip and slander have not been killed, only compartmentalized. The pain continues to grow, slowly and inexorably. Finally the pressure builds to the point of explosion. There is a better way.
James wrote these words to the early church:
It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell. (James 3:6, The Message)
James doesn’t pull any punches, does he? One good way to cling to unity is by not believing the gossip that is spread about. And we certainly shouldn’t spread it any further. Gossip is a parasite that requires a host organism to survive; don’t give gossip a place to live. Think of how many times you have believed something to be true only to find out the information was mostly or even totally wrong. The threat of a libel or slander lawsuit causes some of us to be cautious in our written remarks about others. But we’re not so careful about discussing our brothers and sisters. We need to give them the grace that we would hope for if the roles were reversed.
God is serious about how we communicate about others in the flock. Peter writes:
Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing. (1 Peter 3:8-9, NLT)
So there is an added bonus for your godly communication: a blessing at no extra charge. Rich Mullin’s wrote this in the chorus of the song.
We are frail
We are fearfully and wonderfully made
Forged in the fires of human passion
Choking on the fumes of selfish rage
And with these our hells and our heavens
So few inches apart
We must be awfully small
And not as strong as we think we are.
No, we are not as strong as we think we are. Rich Mullins wrote another song that you probably know.
Our God is an awesome God
He reigns from heaven above
With wisdom, power, and love
Our God is an awesome God.
We need to acknowledge that He is God and we are not. That He reigns with wisdom, power, and love. We need to leave our pride at the altar and depend on His grace and strength. And we need to not be deceived about this simple truth. We are not as strong as we THINK we are.