When a word is spoken

Published 9:35 pm Tuesday, August 6, 2019

By Charles Qualls

You’ve probably heard the joke.

A man was deserted on an island for 10 years. He figured out a way of life, but still dreamed of being rescued. One day, a ship strayed from its normal ocean lane and came close enough to his island that he was able to signal it with a fire. A landing party, including the captain, came over. “We’re going to take you home,” said the ship’s captain. “But first, would you mind showing me how you’ve managed to live here by yourself for 10 years?”

So, they toured. They came to a grove where three rustic buildings sat side-by-side up in the trees. “What are those buildings?” The man explained, “Well, the middle one is my house. The one on the left is my church and the one on the right is the church I went to before the split.”

When a word is spoken, it becomes a part of history and cannot truly be taken back. Our words matter because as adults learn, they linger as a part of reality and take on a life of their own. There’s a reason we have so many churches all over. It is, in part, because humans can differ so much.

When I arrived here, one of the first things I heard was that the churches in the Franklin region were so terribly competitive with one another. I wasn’t completely surprised, seeing as churches everywhere can tend to be a little competitive at times. But I wondered what that might mean. Are the spiritual lighthouses in this community somehow extra rivalrous?

Here, like anywhere, I have found that sometimes in their rivalry or competition people will say things about each other. From the outside, that truly is a bit reckless. Irresponsible even. For no one truly knows what the truth is unless they are on the inside.

Even more, what someone does at another church is none of my business to comment on. It’s none of my concern, if I’m doing my job. For I have plenty to do at my own place. Besides, the Bible indicates that I’ll be judged with the same standard by which I judge. Or as the saying goes, “You shouldn’t throw rocks when you live inside a glass house.”

We have so much important work to do, such that disagreeing sloppily and lazily has no place in God’s kingdom. Our city and region need every unified bit of goodwill and cooperation we can muster. We need a witness that is unsullied, and a focus of our energy and emotion that is useful to God.

I am part of a growing group of local ministers who are trying to unite our Franklin churches in fellowship and in doing good. We are diverse by color and by culture. On paper, this group shouldn’t be succeeding, except that we actually are. We pastors are becoming friends, all of us in our relative newness to Franklin. Those who would think that what we are attempting has failed before, and is therefore impossible, need to give us some time. Oh, and get on board.

We are becoming friends in an organic way. Slow and steady. One conversation, one project and one event at a time. We are meeting for lunch and finding common ground despite our obvious differences. We are supporting one another, including being a part of each other’s church events when possible. It is healthy, this group of neighboring pastors. It is a snapshot of God’s kingdom.

When a word is spoken, it ripples in the pond of history and becomes an undeniable part of reality. Good words, responsible words are our best words.

THE REV. DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.