"Let us destroy him by his own tongue; let us carefully note his every word." Jer 18:18
A few years ago, a friend had one of his emails circulated by others who thought it was very funny, until a coworker stumbled upon it and confronted him. "I saw what you wrote about Carol and I couldn't believe you were talking about her in such a vicious way." There was no doubt in the accuser's mind that my friend wrote something unacceptable, but they did not see what he was saying in context. Written in jest and with tongue firmly in cheek, he never expected his email to become public. But there it was, right in front of him, and there was little he could do. He immediately sought out the person about whom he wrote and apologized. The same cannot be said of those who were seeking to undermine Jeremiah's authority as a prophet.
The people who were carefully noting Jeremiah's "every word," were not seeking the truth or reconciliation, but were trying to trap him. Afraid that Jeremiah's challenge to reform might be taken seriously, they looked for a way to undermine his influence and discredit him. The same thing happened to Jesus and he would have none of it. Because both Jesus and Jeremiah knew they had been empowered by God to speak the truth, despite its consequences, they had to speak.
Lent is a good time to "watch" our own words, rather than others. When we rush into confront others because of a real or perceived offense, we almost never accomplish what we hope. Responding with anger almost always increases the heat of an argument, while a calm, reasoned intervention that asks questions and seeks clarity allows everyone to think and respond in a way that helps all to reconcile.
Today, pray for someone unjustly accused.
What do you do when you hear someone's character being smeared?