As my children began a new school year on Monday, this phrase rang in my head like a mantra of days gone by. I was remembering how painful some of those words in school days can be and praying protection for my children from them.
You remember those words that stung and pierced and stayed with you like a wound that wouldn’t heal?
The jabs of the junior high students at an outfit someone is wearing. Or the rumors spread by your former “b.f.f.” Or maybe the comment by your teacher of disappointment in your efforts. Or the nickname someone gave you based on your most embarrassing physical characteristic.
Words do hurt, badly. They have a power that the author of Sunday’s Scripture knows well:
You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls. James 1:19-21
The pain caused by words spoken in rash anger or an irritable mood, can make the hearer feel unlovable. The talk that is soiled in jealousy or resentment does not reveal God’s purposes. And the careless word thrown out in haste, can turn out to be the ones that burn holes in our souls. These words start to build, and form a wall that closes off our hearts to relationships and moves our hearts into intentional isolation. And yes, those words can even break us.
So James contrasts these negative words with a picture of speech that is not only slow to anger but slow to respond. Words that are only spoken after consideration of the consequences and deliberation. This is the implanted word that has the power to save our souls. A power that can keep us in touch with the light of God, rather than living in darkness. When we consider the impact of our words on another person before we say them, we remember they too are made in the image of God. When we ensure that we are taking the other perspective into account, before we make a judgement, grace is revealed. When we pause to reflect on the goodness rather than focusing on the negative, the light of Christ shines through us.
I had the joy on Monday of speaking with someone who had given her heart to Christ over the weekend. Her excitement was palpable and as we spoke, I felt myself being lifted in the Holy Spirit. For the way she shared about God and her faith was fresh and new. She had passion and joy. She wanted to talk about her faith with people she didn't even know. As we spoke, I found myself wanting to talk with her more and more, because she was so filled with the Spirit. The love for God that was in her heart was revealed in her words, and it was contagious. As she spoke of her faith I found myself more confident and excited about sharing mine. It was a conversation in which I felt the power of the Holy Spirit because she had implanted the word within her in a way that was saving her soul and the souls of those around her.
And yet, even she knew she had to keep filling herself up with the Word of God daily in order to share this saving word with others. The words of God must be implanted in us. Not only to fill us up and protect us from the words that do hurt. But to be able to share a word with others that heals...
What words are you sharing today?
Be a blessing, Alex