"Wrestling with God" ~ November 21, 2017

The Power of Words

Scripture: Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing. NRSV 1 Thessalonians 5:11

When I was a boy, we had a saying that went, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but (dirty) words can never hurt me!”.  This was usually uttered when we were being teased or verbally assaulted in some way.  Oh, how naive we were to think that way.  For as we grew older we discovered that words can indeed hurt us.  And while broken bones will heal and be hardly noticed, the scars left by unkind, even mean words will last a lifetime.

Paul writes in the quote above how we are to build one another up.  He encourages the Thessalonians to continue to build one another up.  This is an extension of Christ’s command to “love one another as I have loved you”.  How better to act in this way than with words of comfort, words of love, words that are helpful.  A kind word may brighten someone’s day.  A comforting word may ease a person’s sorrow.  Words in a loving manner may raise the self-worth of someone feeling worthless.  This is in stark contrast to the way that many people treat each other.

In our present society and culture, the art of tearing a person down has become an art, albeit a dark art at that.  With the ever present social media like tweeting providing a canvas for insults, mockery, and bullying the anonymous quote has been common.  Not only are their words hurtful but they are also public in the worst way.  Insults are hurled through the air like snowflakes on a cold, wintry day.  No longer do people settle their differences in private, but, instead, place them in public like a billboard along a highway.

The leaders do not make efforts towards peace and understanding.  Instead they hurl threats and insults across the world.  The arts of tact and diplomacy are dying ones.  People want to get in the best quip or barb to make someone else look foolish and to build themselves up at another’s expense.  This is a far cry from what Paul asks us to do.  We are to BUILD Each Other UP, not tear someone down.  We are to encourage one another, not mock their efforts.  Instead of seeing Christ in everyone we meet, for we are all made in God’s image, we single out individuals or groups who are different than our standard of perfection.  Then we do whatever we can to tear down and remove these people(s) from our lives. 

God calls us to lift up all peoples.  Jesus calls us to love one another.  Paul calls us to build one another up.  Scripture calls us to treat our neighbor as we would like to be treated.  What a different world in which we would live if we followed these callings.  The world would indeed be a foreshadowing of the Kingdom of God and a kinder and gentler place in which to live.  Let each of us try to practice these callings.  Let each one of us pray that others would do the same.  The power of the words of comfort, kindness, and love would transform the world.  Love conquers all.  Amen.