As members of my church know, I aspire to play golf! Often, I arrive at my golf club on my own and end up playing with someone that I meet on the first tee. The game progresses and eventually, usually on the sixth hole, my opponent asks me what I do for a living. ‘I’m a Baptist minister,’ I reply. There’s a silence, as they think, ‘What have I said? How much have I sworn?’ As if we clergy haven’t heard it all before! Or used it …..?
Last Saturday, it happened again – although, this time not until the sixteenth hole! My opponent asked the question, I answered. He apologized, ‘Oh, sorry about the language!’ Well, what does one say? You can take offence, but that doesn’t really help. You can ignore it, but that doesn’t respond to the apology. I said, ‘That’s OK. I can cope with the swearing – nearly everyone does it. What I don’t like is when people say ‘Christ!’ all the time as a swear-word.’ He didn’t really respond, but I hope it gave him something to think about. Clearly, he was not put out as he sent me polite e-mail later in the day, thanking me for the game.
It made me think, too. When is it right to overlook people’s behaviour and language, though it may not be our own way, and when is it right to speak out? It reminds me of the words of 1 Peter 3:15:
‘In your hearts, revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…’