A minister was riding down the street on his bicycle when he came upon a boy trying to sell a lawn mower.
"How much do you want for that mower?" asked the preacher.
"I just want enough money to buy a bicycle," said the boy.
After a moment of consideration, the preacher asked, "Will you take my bike in trade for your mower?"
The boy agreed and took the bike. The preacher took the mower and tried to crank it. He pulled the rope a few times with no response from the mower.
The preacher called the boy over and said, "I can't get the mower to start."
"That's because you have to cuss at it to get it started," the boy said.
"I'm a minister, and I can't cuss," The preacher said. "In fact, I've been a minister for so long I've forgotten how to cuss."
The boy just looked at him, smiled and said, "Just keep pulling on the rope and it will come back to you."
Sticks and stones
When the apostle Paul wrote to the Christians at Ephesus, "Let no evil talk come out of your mouth," he wasn't just talking about cursing. He was talking more about the destructive and unhealthy ways we sometimes talk to and about one another.
As children, if someone called us a bad name, we might have said, "sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me."
Well, that's not exactly true. Names, snide remarks, put-downs, gossip - all these do hurt. They wound us deeply. And if they continue on a regular basis, the wounds may linger for years.
Paul encourages us to speak truthfully and honestly to one another, but to use words that "give grace to those who hear," to speak in ways that build up instead of tear down.
"Put away from you," writes Paul, "all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together will all malice," and practice, instead, kindness and forgiveness.
Paul's advice to the Ephesians is good advice for us as well, especially in light of the current tone of public discourse around important issues facing our nation.
Slandering of those who disagree with our opinions, name-calling and attempts to silence speakers we don't agree with is not the kind of communication that offers grace nor is "useful for building up."
When words are used to hurt others or to silence, the free flow of ideas then all of us are hurt. Let us all speak not only from the heart but with the heart.
The Rev. Dr. Louis H. Dorsch is pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ, 131 E. Perry St., Tiffin