In James 3, we are reminded that with our tongue, we bless God and we curse our brothers and sisters who are made in the image of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. This is always a challenging Sunday, for who of us cannot see ourselves in these words?
However, as liberal, 21st century people, I think we often mishear James’ instruction to offend not in word as a counsel to Be Nice. We are to speak truthfully, insofar as we can, and that is not always well-received. While there are times when, from charity, one should remain silent rather than speaking an unwelcome or painful truth, that is not always possible. What we are not to do is bring forth that which is evil (Luke 6) or to curse our sisters and brothers, effectively denying the image of God shining in them – and in ourselves. Some inner traditions hold that when someone curses another, the curse travels through the curser first – and the same with blessing.
In examining our speech, especially in difficult and potentially hurtful situations, may we ask ouselves if we are speaking from the abundance of the heart, and in a way that honors and blesses the image of God in all of us.