"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit." - Proverbs 15:1, 4
The music in the background is always soothing. There is laughter and joy on the faces of everyone in the scene. The pharmaceutical product being advertised promises renewal of energy and health from almost any malady, physical or emotional.
While the happy images continue, after the first ten seconds of the 30-second commercial, the voiceover begins reminding us of the possible side effects of this pharmaceutical miracle. We hear the warnings: "Don't take this medicine if . . . It may cause nausea, internal bleeding…., and in rare cases death."
All this time, the visuals are of people smiling, dancing, laughing, embracing, and even pondering things romantic.
Beware of the possible side effects is the message of the day. That warning is also at the heart of all the teachings of our faith. The reality of the side effects of our behavior is clearly stated in the "cause and effect" passages from the book of Proverbs. From the Decalogue to the Sermon on the Mount the same message rings clear – be alert to the possible side effects of your behavior. Angry, greedy, prideful, lustful, gluttonous, vengeful, selfish behaviors always have their side effects: from ill health and strained and broken relationships to violence and its extreme emanation – war.
The message for each one of us and particularly for those with the power to bring health to our ailing world is beware of the side effects of our actions!
Beloved One, I often speak and act too quickly and in doing so cause others pain. The motives behind what I do are often a mystery to me. I am sure that they are not always guided by your will. Help me to take a breath – an inhalation of your Spirit – before I speak or act so that the side effects of what I say and do will bring healing to broken hearts and a broken world. Amen.
Bob Naylor has served in parish and national staff ministries and now is the lead consultant for a clergy and church coaching and planning ministry, In Church Imagining. He is the author of a recently released book by Pilgrim Press, What Church Leaders REALLY Need to Know.