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Background Considerations

  • The biblical language of the heart and what it produces (a good Bible dictionary would be useful just now):
    • “Heart” in the Old Testament
    • “Heart” in the New Testament
  • Biblical expressions about how to avoid offending others, especially through what we say:
    • The power of the spoken word in the biblical world and today – curses, blessings, vows all carry potency beyond what we assume in the modern world. There was a power in words unleashed for positive ends as well as negative ones. This is why people in Bible times took blessings and curses so seriously; something happens in the cosmos when spoken words release their power.

Relevant Biblical Passages

  • Hosea – This book as much as any in the Bible, gets to the heart of relationships, based primarily on the metaphor of marriage. Its message of reconciliation should inform any conversation about how, at the deepest personal levels, we establish positive, productive ties with God and people.
  • Jeremiah – Known as the prophet of the heart, Jeremiah uses the word “heart” scores of times in his 52 chapters to address the level of relationship into which God calls us. The book also finds in the human heart a major source of evil and God’s heart as the source of good.
  • James 3:2-12 – The classic treatment in the New Testament of how the tongue, while a small part of the human anatomy, can be a source of tremendous encouragement and help, but also the scourge of others and their characters. How can the tongue be tamed to avoid offending people, thereby staving off the tensions created by bad-mouthing and harsh language, which in turn reduces the need for confrontation and forgiveness.
  • Ephesians 4:15-16, 25, 29 – Comments on the power of the tongue for good and for ill.
  • Philippians 4:8 – The classic list of the best subjects for consideration and practice.

Contributions to the Study of Forgiveness

  • How does “heart” religion affect relationships? The need for forgiveness? The way forgiveness is sought and received?

Lessons for Life

  • What can we learn about the power of the tongue either to hurt or to help? If we could get better at it, would we offend people as often and thereby need forgiveness as much as we do?

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