Most current generations were taught some basic good manners as we grew up. I know this continues today because I ran these statements by our children during my most recent children’s sermon, and they could finish the words. Yes, even the adults were able to finish the statements, which is a good thing.
“Say please and thank you.”
“If you can’t say anything nice about somebody, don’t say anything at all.”
“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”
Well most of those statements are good advice and true (And it would be a great thing if all adults, including politicians, took them to heart.), but the last statement is not true. Anyone whose been in an intense argument — say with one’s spouse — knows that words can hurt; and they are sometimes difficult to take back. Harsh destructive words can especially wound young children when coming from someone they love. Harsh words and labels can do damage to the souls of the disenfranchised, ostracized and minorities of a community especially when they come from the empowered, the franchised, the majority, etc.
Some asked me if I was going to preach about the incidents around the country which began in Charlottesville, Virginia. What I said in church was, “If I felt a need to preach a sermon against hate, exclusivity, racism, genderism, sexism or any other “ism” then I have wasted preaching the last twenty-five years. More importantly, if the members of the church needed to hear such a sermon, then they have not been listening to the words of Jesus over their lifetime.”
Words wound and words build up. We do well to focus upon Jesus’ words who reminded us in the reading this last week that it is what comes out of the mouth and not what goes into it that defiles [hurts and wounds] individuals, the community and the world. Jesus said to love one another, not hate one another. Jesus said to welcome the stranger, for in doing so we welcome Him. Jesus said to forgive our enemies, pray for them, feed them and give them something to drink, not to put them down on the internet or in public displays of hatred. Jesus said, “Care for the vulnerable, heal the broken hearted, and love the unlovable.”
It is clear from Church history that we have not always done a good job of speaking the words of Jesus. Christians have hated, imprisoned, executed and ostracized in the name of Jesus throughout the generations, so maybe I do have to continue to preach the words of Jesus to counteract prejudice, hate and fear.
We would do well to follow the advice of our parents and of Jesus. Let us speak as Jesus spoke; love as Jesus loved; forgive as Jesus forgave. It was so clear in the genuine forgiveness offered by survivors of the horrible hate filled crime committed in a church in Charleston, that the members of that church had been listening to the words of Jesus preached their entire lives. Have we?
What words are being preached to you? What words are you preaching to others? Do your words heal or injure? Do your words lift up or put down? Do your words soothe the soul or wound the soul?
“For now, we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face.” I Corinthians 13.12 KJV.