Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. (James 3:10)

I’VE BEEN STUNG by a Texas bull nettle before. That’s why I viciously chop down any that spring up in our backyard. Brushing against the plant’s needle-sharp hairs causes a painful allergic reaction that can last for hours. Nevertheless, local foragers say the nettle’s seeds are quite delicious, if you’re willing to brave the dangers of handling one.

I’ll take their word. That’s one local delicacy I don’t intend to try.

I do wonder, though, whether our nettle-like tongues make people equally reluctant to hear about Jesus. Once they feel the sting of uncharitable criticism, deliberately offensive remarks, and malicious gossip from people who call themselves Christians, many who desperately need to hear the gospel may decide it’s not worth the trouble to listen.

That’s tragic because God has made us custodians of the very words of life. We’re given a message of forgiveness for the condemned, acceptance for the unworthy, and assurance for the hopeless. It’s a privilege to speak such words because they usher in the abundant life Jesus promises to all who call on His name.

Like the beautiful white flowers that a bull nettle displays in the early summer, my words can be a means of grace. I want to purge offensive speech from my lips so that others can get close to me—and to my Savior—without fear of being stung.

Speak a word of blessing to someone you don’t get along with.

Johnathan Kana lives with his wife and two children in rural central Texas. When he’s not writing, he enjoys playing piano and composing music.

© 2018 Wesleyan Publishing House. Reprinted from Light from the Word. Used by permission.