One of my favorite book series from years ago is a fantastical epic in which five heroes travel across a barren wasteland of a world, through treacherous towns and forests, towards the greatest of dangers, all in search of an unreachable tower. The main character is an old and weathered warrior, and hails from a time when honor, integrity and honesty were the noblest of qualities. He’s a quiet, reflective man, quick to act, quick to think, but slow to speak. And he often shares wisdom with his fellow warriors, one of which sticks in my mind and has travelled with me these past few years. When one of the heroes steps out of line, acts in a way that is unbecoming of their quest, or betrays their own honor, integrity or honesty, this old battered warrior warns, “you have forgotten the face of your father.”
It’s a statement meant to invoke the notion that it’s possible to fall away from your father’s honor and nobility; to behave in a manner unbefitting your father’s name, household and legacy. In the book series, it’s one of the greatest insults, the most devastating accusation, that can be leveled against someone.
It’s also a statement that keeps coming to my mind these past few days.
Of course, it’s not Father’s Day, nor does the word “father” hold some exclusive place in the question I’d like you to consider. The battered hero mentioned above could have easily said “you’ve forgotten the face of your mother” and conveyed the same idea.
We are a people who continually — continually — forget the things many of our parents taught us. We forget many of the things our mothers have taught us especially. Remember this gem? “Call me when you get there so that…” Complete that sentence! “… so that I know you’re safe.” Or maybe “a little soap and water never…” Anyone already shouting the answer out? “A little soap and water never killed anyone.” Or this little nugget: “Don’t ask me why! The answer is…” Not a yes, I can tell you that. And how about, “I can always tell when you’re…” Everyone should know this one.
“I can always tell when you’re lying.”
One of my personal favorites, which I suspect not many of you have heard, is: “Comic books are dumb, dumb, dumb…” Any guesses as to how that one ends? Here ya go: “Comic books are dumb, dumb, dumb, they turn your brain to chewing gum.”
But the one we seem to forget, the one our mothers drilled in our heads again, and again, and again, and again, was this:
If you can’t say something nice…
Don’t say it at all.
Such wisdom in those eleven words. It’s not a quote from scripture, but it has tons of scripture packed in it. James 1:19 tells us we should be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.” How well is that working out for you?
Watching the divide across the nation currently makes my heart sink. Watching Christians fire barbs at one another on Facebook cuts me to the core. Listening to some of the things that are coming out of the mouths of some Christians — a minority thankfully, though a very vocal minority — turns my stomach. The bitterness, paranoia, complaining and hate… yes, hatred, that is being bandied about online, and IN JESUS’s NAME… well, it makes me want to make a whip, flip some tables, and toss some people out of the temple grounds.
We’re so bad at remembering our mothers’ words and wisdom. We’re so quick to forget the face of our Heavenly Father. We’re so quick to engage in rumors, conspiracies, insults, outrage, grumbling, gossip and a distaste for our fellow brothers and sisters… sometimes I wonder how God’s heart can bear it.
But He did bear it. On the cross. All the words. All the actions. All the hate. All the sin. He bore it so you and I could BE DIFFERENT.
So why are we so quick to be the same as the world?
Why are we rushing to hurl nonsense at one another rather than loving, encouraging and lifting others up?
Why are we spreading silliness rather than the gospel?
Why are we so focused on what isn’t instead of What Is?
When will we remember the words of our mothers, the face of our Heavenly Father, and live like Christ?
I’m in constant prayer that this situation brings about a revival in the hearts and minds of our church, the larger Church and Christians across the world. But it will take diligence, maturity and a keen sense of what living like Jesus even looks like. Take a moment this week to really examine scripture. Pay attention to how Jesus handled the world. How Jesus reached out to the lost. How Jesus handled crises and turmoil. How Jesus responded to those who were afraid, anxious or unraveling.
Remember your mother’s words, online and off. Remember the face of your Heavenly Father, online and off. Do something that matters, something worthwhile for the Kingdom, online and off.
Be someone that stands apart.
Don’t be ordinary. Anyone can do that.
You serve an extraordinary God. So be an extraordinary servant of the Most High. And start with the people around you. Your family, your friends, your co-workers. Don’t peddle conspiracies. Spread the gospel. Don’t rage against those you don’t agree with. Spend time telling them about Jesus. Don’t waste your days toiling like the world, focused on all the things that will pass away one day anyway. Spend your days proclaiming His name, exhibiting His works, and showing others His love.
Thanks, mom. Wouldn’t have learned all of that without ya.
Happy Mother’s Day.