We take words and language so much for granted no matter what language we speak. How seldom we recognize what a unique tool God gave us when He created us in His image and gave us language? No other animal or thing He created was given this gift. How sad to think of our casual use of them oftentimes.
We generally don’t give words we speak a lot of thought. In our current culture words are used to slander, spit out hateful words, and blaspheme. They too often wound, tear down, divide, blame, and judge when they could heal, lift up, unite, encourage, and offer grace.
Have we forgotten that once we utter them they have the power to create good or evil?
Do we justify what words we use and how we use them because of someone else or something else? (You don’t need to answer that because I am sure we all are guilty of that from time-to-time.)
You may think I am giving words too much credit; but if we pause and recall that God spoke the world and all He created (except man) by speaking it into existence, our perspective might be aligned more to the truth we conveniently forget.
Every significant transformative moment in biblical history was set in motion by words.
Jesus told his disciples to go out into the entire world and spread the gospel. How were they to do that? By speaking and telling of all they had seen and heard of this man and God who had ascended into heaven leaving them to spread the good news.
“The Christian faith was designed to replicate itself, in part, through the act of speaking. Sacred words are containers that carry information about deep and often invisible realities. They help us describe, albeit imperfectly, what we believe. Words allow us to whisper encouragement over the God-loved, downtrodden, and we use them to pray and to preach and to praise. When we stop speaking God, the future of the Christian religion itself hangs in the balance.” Jonathan Merritt
I believe those words of Jonathan’s are sound reminders we should not lose sight of. It can be easy to forget that words disappear from use regularly and that research shows that twenty-five languages cease to exist each year.
As our cultures have become more secular, more and more words that are reflective of our faith and are sacred are used less often. We are so concerned about offending someone that we neglect the truth that Jesus came to shake things up and awaken us. He came in the midst of the dominating powerful Roman Empire and his words brought hope to the beleaguered people who lived in that time. Do we not recognize that He left us to do likewise? Not by badgering or beating up people with the Word, but by speaking life-giving words that encourage and point to the gospel.
Why are as many as 7,000 churches closing their doors each year in America? Have we lost touch with what it means to speak life and hope without berating or taking divisive cultural or political positions? Do we remember we are to stay attached to the vine?
“When we speak God, we are not just voicing letters strung together in a certain order. We are handling containers of spiritual knowledge.” Jonathan Merritt
C.S. Lewis penned words that impact many today. He surely knew they had the power to transform not only language, but people and culture as well. He also knew that the meanings of words evolve.
Lewis wrote in Studies in Words, “As everyone knows, words constantly take on new meanings.” He makes an analogy that the meanings of a words can be much like a tree growing and adding new branches as it does.
The Bible reminds us more than once or twice to be aware of the words we speak and how we speak them. Here are just a few places where such exhortation appears:
“For whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech.” 1 Peter 3:10 (NIV)
“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6 (NIV)
“The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.” Proverbs 15:4 (NIV)
“What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” Matthew 15:11 (NIV)
Might we all take heed to these words of Mother Teresa:
“Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness.”