Oh, if ever there were an area of my life in which I needed to know the functional reality of “it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20), it’s the area of what comes out of my mouth. Scripture says so. Too often, I show so.
“A small member,” writes James, “yet it boasts of great things” (Ja. 3:5). A fire; a world of unrighteousness; staining the whole body; setting on fire the entire course of life; itself fueled from the depths of Gehenna itself (3:6). A restless evil, full of deadly poison, schizophrenic in nature as it blesses our Lord and Father in one breath and then curses people who are made in His likeness in the next (3:8-9). Heavy sigh!
But here’s what’s grabbed me this morning, in particular. James’ conclusion and James’ command.
For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. . . . From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.
(James 3:7-8a, 10 ESV)
No human being can tame the tongue. It is untamable. Yet, these things ought not to be so. Or, as Peterson puts it, “My friends, this can’t go on” (MSG). Tame it, James says.
Talk about your no-win situation. Talk about repeated failure. Talk about frustration. Talk about “the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing”; about “wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:19, 24). If I’m picking up what James is laying down, I’m no match for the tongue, yet James says, match it! Tame the untamable.
How? Cue my union with Christ.
The question isn’t, “How am I going to tame my tongue?” Rather, in Christ and Christ in me, it’s, “How are we?” For it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me.
No human being can tame the tongue, except for the perfect human being, the Man who is Lord of the tongue, for He is the One in whom “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col. 2:9). In Christ, I am no longer a slave to my tongue. Christ in me means I have the power to live into that reality.
As I abide in Him and He in me (Jn. 15:4), as He increases and I decrease (Jn. 3:30), as I am conformed to the image of the Son (Rom. 8:29), as I’m transformed by the renewal of my mind (Rom. 12:2), I should be experiencing other-worldly victories over this world’s realities. Even those involving the tongue.
In those victories, I know the reality of the abiding Jesus. I know what it is to be yoked with Him, our communion together bearing the fruit of a controlled tongue.
But even in those times when the old man, the old world, or the old devil trip me up, and the tongue goes where I really don’t want it to because of a heart that is not tuned as I wish it were, then too I can know sweet communion with the Christ who lives in me as He meets me at the foot of the cross. I confess my wayward words, I repent of an unbridled tongue, and I trust that “we” will know increasing mastery of this miserable little member.
So, whether in taming or in turning and trying again, I know His amazing grace. And in some way, He says it will bring Him glory.
Taming the untamable. All because it is not longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.