“Whoever would love life
and see good days
must keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from deceitful speech.
He must turn from evil and do good;
he must seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
To “love life and see good days” seems like an obvious choice. If so, here are three steps along the pathway: guard your tongue, guard your behaviour, guard your relationships.
Guard your tongue. Your words matter. Don’t use any of them lightly or carelessly. Don’t speak evil of someone else. Don’t put words together in such a way that a person is diminished by them, or torn down, or needlessly wounded.
Sometimes we tell ourselves that gossip, if true, is okay. But truth, not spoken in love, can be as hurtful as falsehood. Sometimes more so. Remember the Old Testament definition of slander I mentioned last week: “to eat the pieces of flesh torn off from someone’s body.” Ouch. If my words cause such careless pain, then my tongue has become an instrument of evil. Don’t do it, Peter says.
A second step: Guard your behaviour. To “turn from evil and do good” is the action of repentance. A willingness to look honestly in the mirror of our own lives is the first step, allowing the Lord to reveal what we’ve previously ignored. He may use the inner prompting of his Spirit, or the convicting insight of his Word, or the faithful wounds of a friend. But it doesn’t stop there. Decisively turn away from the wrong, and then intentionally fill the gap with what is good, reshaping the use of time, money, imagination, leisure, strength, talents, creativity. Everything is geared in a new direction, toward the Lord himself.
A third step: Guard your relationships. “Seek peace and pursue it.” Some relationships come easily, while others produce constant irritants. In both extremes, and everything between, seek peace and pursue it. This calls us to set our sights strongly and then earnestly expend energy. All in the cause of peace, that Old Testament concept of “shalom,” which implies both cessation of conflict and outpouring of well-being. Seek and pursue this broad spectrum in all your relationships. Where there is tension and discord, make it your determination, as much as it depends on you, to find resolution and reconciliation. Where there is already harmony, make it your determination to be the conduit for the Lord’s full shalom, poured out. Seek the best for the other, whether friend or foe. That’s a challenge. Peter says: do it.
As we engage in each of these, we find ourselves running in the Lord’s pleasure. “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous.” Yes, guarding tongues and behaviours and relationships requires ongoing attention, yet the attention of the Lord himself is turned in our direction, his heart is warmed and his blessing experienced.
Truly a rich reward for those who would “love life and see good days.”
Dear Lord, teach me today to guard my tongue, seeking to bless rather than harm. Whenever my feet stray, turn them back in your direction. Strengthen me to pursue peace for all I meet. I walk knowing your eye is upon me, your ear turned toward me. Praise your name.
Which of these three – tongue, behaviour, relationships – will require most attention from you this day? “His ears are attentive to … prayer” – ask for his help.