lashon hara.... It is the Jewish concept and Hebrew word for gossip (more literal "bad-mouthing"). The heart may be the source of evil but it does not keep that evil contained. There is a direct line between the evil desires of the heart and the lips that are its mouthpiece. There is not much to keep the evil in the heart from becoming the evil spoken out loud.
We live in an age in which much speech is malicious, evil, and designed to harm or wound. It is not merely a matter if giving the evil in the heart a mechanism to go public. Rather, it is that we are emboldened by the ability of media available to us to hurt and defame and all the while enjoy relative impunity by remaining anonymous.
I admit to having chosen anonymity when commenting on occasion but my Google Identity makes it more difficult to post quickly and leave while making sure I have covered my tracks. I comment less overall but comment more with my name attached. There are not a few who complain that anonymous commentary is allowed on this blog. So far I am not inclined to change this but could if bad behaviors warranted such a change.
Leviticus 19 warns of the dangers of spreading slander. Psalm 34 urges us to keep our tongues from evil. James 3 laments how the same tongue can issue forth praise to God on Sunday morning and then become a tool of the devil by cursing those in the likeness of God. James 1 says a religion which cannot bridle the tongue is an utterly worthless faith. I have no shortage of proof texts to bolster my point.
My point is this. In public conversation, in private whisper, on the cell phone or in email, in blog or in print, and wherever we find ourselves, we would do well to consider what we say and why we say it. There is sometimes a very narrow line between words that inform and words than inflame, words that challenge wrong and words that merely lay blame or explode in harm out of frustration and bitterness.
We in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod are known more for our unofficial publications than for our official ones and this is not because of their erudition and eloquence. It is not my intention to add to this or exploit this perception. I have been victim of such evil words in the past and I have been the source of them more than I want to admit. Perhaps Lent is a good time to practice a little training in righteousness for the heart that informs the tongue and the tongue that publishes the whims of the heart. I have greatly appreciated the Lenten greeting of President Harrison and its attention to the slander or simple gossip and its effect upon the clergy. We all know that it is a two way street in parish and in Synod. So I hope that when we speak of even unpleasant or distasteful things within the congregation or about the laborers in the Kingdom or on blogs such as these, we will (I said we to include myself) work to make sure that the intention is edification and not demolition.