Friday, March 8, 2013

The Power of Words

I have been realizing lately how important words are. We are a society of cheap words. If we could count all the words we see and hear in a day (not only the ones we perceive), we....well, I don't have anything snazzy to say. But it would be an incredible number.

Proverbs 18:21 in The Message translation says, "Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose."


When I was a kid I was invited to a birthday slumber party for a girl who was in my class at school. We were acquaintances, as much as first graders can be, but not the best of friends. We played together on the playground and got along well, so I thought.

While at the party, we were all sitting around her kitchen table eating and hanging out, and the birthday girl was sitting to my left. At one point, she turned to me and said, "You're so stupid. I shouldn't have invited you."

I remember to this day how those words made me feel. Things kind of stopped for a minute in my mind as I internalized the strong words spoken against me. I had no response to her. They were typical words of my childhood. It's a hard knock life for the kid who always gets made fun of! Until that kid grows up to be a strong woman who changes the world. Just sayin.
Those words, those two little sentences, had the power to vacuum all the fun out of the rest of the party for me. And all of the life.

Our words hold power.

Remember the woman caught in adultery? John 8:1-11. She was caught, discovered, guilty. And she was used as a tool to frame a man. The religious leaders bringing her before Jesus were not bringing her there for her own good; not for her cleansing, not for her forgiveness, not for a sacrifice to be made on her behalf. They brought her there so that they could accuse Jesus.

Jesus, after writing in the sand, responds to them, "Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her" (v. 7b, NRSV). They showly turn and walk away one by one, dropping their stones. I can imagine the stones piling up into a powerful altar on which Jesus reveals his love for the woman and for broken humanity.

Scripture says, "Jesus straightened up and said to her, 'Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?'  She said, 'No one, sir.' And Jesus said, 'Neither do I condemn you'" (v. 10-11, NRSV).

Sometimes I think we need to spend less time allowing words to fly from our mouths and more time writing in the sand.

A song from my middle school years says, "Oh the power of your words are filled with grace and mercy, let them fall on my ears and break my stony heart. Come in close...come in close and speak. God, come in close...come closer to me" (Charlie Hall, "Closer").

May we be people who write in the sand. May we be people who weigh our words and choose them wisely, knowing that our days are numbered. May we be people who speak life and not death. May our words heal and not wound.

May we be speakers of life.

To all the beautiful women of the world, Happy International Women's Day! You are beautiful, and your life matters.


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