Vinegar Pie?

“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt,
so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

(Col. 4:6 ESV)

I introduced my men’s Bible Study this morning to something known primarily in the south as “Bless His/Her Heart Syndrome” (BHHS).  Essentially what this means is that you can say just about anything you want about a person, either directly or indirectly, as long you preface your attack with “Bless his heart, but…”  I have heard the most vicious, slanderous, and malicious things said about people, even in churches, but it was okay because it all started with a blessing.  In some circles this is known as a “vinegar pie.”

This thinly veiled assault takes many forms – here are just a few:

  • “No offense, but…” or “Not to be rude, but…”  These are usually prepositions to very offensive and rude comments, and usually all offense and rudeness is intended.  What we really mean is, “I am about to offend you, but I will take it personally if you get upset with me over what I am about to say.”
  • “With all Christian love…” How many times has someone complimented you, either for what you’ve done or how you look, and have prefaced their comments with, “I mean this with all Christian love…”?  No, usually this kind of Christian love is critical love – “I mean this will all Christian love, but don’t you think you ought to get a haircut?”
  • “Honest!”  I have found if you have to try to convince people you are telling the truth by saying, “honest” all the time, you have a credibility problem.  “Honestly, I’m not sure that dress really flatters you.”  That’s almost like saying, “Well, most of the time I’d lie and say it looks nice, but this time I’m going to be brutally honest.”
  • “I need you to pray for…”  Now most of the time when people ask you to pray for someone, the request and need are genuine.  Then there’s the time when you know something’s rotten in Denmark.  The prayer request has very intimate details that really don’t help us know why to pray, but tell us a lot about the personal life of those involved.  The prayer request begins with “well I heard…” and the source of the information is not the person or persons involved.  We seem to think that as long as it is under the heading of “prayer requests” it is immune from becoming gossip.

All joking aside, though, while it’s prevalent, this kind of underhanded, verbal cut-down has no place in the Christian life.  “Speaking the truth in love” does not mean sugarcoating the truth, or softening the blow with deflective praise.

James says, “With [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.  From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.  My brothers, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:9-10).  When I was a kid, I think the saying went, “You kiss your mom with that mouth?!?”

Maybe, as a Christian, you’ve cleaned up your language, and that is commendable.  Swearing and cursing are ugly and offensive to a heart of peace and joy, and does not demonstrate the kind of love and goodness that befits the new life in Christ.  But neither does the kind of veiled yet destructive language that usually follows “well bless his heart…”  Why not just say, “bless his heart,” and leave it at that?  Whatever criticism, whatever juicy bit of gossip you’ve got ready to fly, whatever cynical knock that’s about to drop – leave it at the blessing.  Let your yes be yes and your no be no.  Let your blessing be a genuine blessing.  And let your speech always be gracious.


Practicing the Resurrection

I had a friend on Facebook last week post that for pastors, the week after Easter is equal to Christmas vacation.  I don’t know what planet he’s writing from, but I’ve never known that to be the case.  This week following Easter I have two funerals, a youth retreat to prepare for, as well as the usual visitation, sermon and worship prep that comes with a standard work-week as a Pastor.  “Christmas-vacation” – as if!

I think that having funerals the week after Easter Sunday, or any time of the year for that matter, is kind of like putting your faith to the test.  “Do you really believe all that stuff you said last week?”  If Christ is raised, if we believe in a living savior who has conquered death and sin, how does that change the way you mourn the loss of a loved one?  How does that change your view of death, but also your view of the life you now live?

This week I have the opportunity to celebrate the victory of these two saints who have now joined the Church triumphant.  I celebrate their lives, I mourn their passing, and I anticipate with great hope and longing the day when we shall be brought together, those who sleep and those who live, as we meet the Lord in the air.

I heard about a mansion He has built for me in glory
And I heard about the streets of gold beyond the crystal sea
About the angels singing and the old redemption story
And some sweet day I’ll sing up there the song of victory.

O victory in Jesus my Savior forever
He sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood
He loved me ere I knew Him and all my love is due Him
He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood.