I have carried a machete.
Maybe you have, too.
We all possess one, a weapon of mass destruction.
Or of immeasurable hope.
It’s called the tongue.
We have seen, in recent memory, unimaginable horrors in our world. Stalin and his regime. Nazi death camps. The genocide in Rwanda. The atrocities of the Khmer Rouge. Today, no one needs to be reminded of ISIS. And this is not a comprehensive list.
I am in no way seeking to diminish the despicable and evil of the atrocities listed above, which are shocking and horrifying. The day these acts cease to shock us would be unimaginable itself. May that never be.
As followers of the Word, we recognize the power of the Word. To be a person who follows after the Living Word, who longs to walk along this path, means that the words I utter must also align with his character… my words must be of words resurrected—not words of flesh, but words born of the spirit, words inspired by Holy Writ and Holy Spirit, having been funneled through the sieve of His word. How am I doing? Are my words passing the test? How are you doing?
Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose. Proverbs 18:21 The Message
The tongue has the power of life and death; and those who love it will eat its fruit. Proverbs 18:21 NIV
This verse pierces the place where the choice is made to offer life or death through the words of the tongue. This weapon I was born with, my tongue, can be used to destroy or to build. What comes out in the form of words has this kind of giving power… and it will either be the one or the other.
Moreover, I’ll have to eat whatever I say. “How is the food tasting?” I think to myself. Is it sweet? Refreshing? Healthy? Bitter? Rotten? Am I choking? Gulping? Can I swallow it?
This is some kind of power I’m wielding, when I choose to use my voice… a power so loud I can almost hear the thunder rolling behind it. My desire is to remember to ask myself, “Is it power harnessed, disciplined, carefully wielded, tamed, appropriate for the situation? Or subject to the passion, fury, or sorrow of the moment?”
How many words of love and life have brought healing and hope to those in need of them? Therein lies the power of life, with words that restore, heal, offer hope, help, encouragement, words brimming with purpose and love. Since He is the source of Love, sharing words of love is the sharing of Him… any life-giving word, offering seed of hope, any substance of something solid, is the spoken manifestation of Him, a promise of fruit to be harvested, and a reflection of His glory. He won’t let that word come back void.
How many relationships have been destroyed, how many hearts broken, spirits crushed, because of words? Therein lies the power of death and destruction— in the carnage of dying relationships, broken hearts, crushed hopes, shattered dreams, burned reputations, and time lost. And we who inhabit this earth walk around stung, maimed, and amputated. The world is hurting full of word-cut amputees.
I know I’ve contributed to the mess. I stand on both sides, as one who has been amputated and one who has also wielded the knife.
But doesn’t this describe us all? Have you hurt others with your words, truncating their hope? crushing their spirit? hurting and wounding like a scythe? Haven’t you also been wounded, cut deeply by the words tossed at you?
There is hope to move beyond the carnage. While I regret past words and am ashamed of them, I don’t dwell there, I repent as honestly as my deceitful heart can, turn away, seek forgiveness and draw closer to Love. The drawing closer to Love transforms me from the inside-out, so that what flows from the inward is more of the form of Love-giving speech, sounding more like the master than myself. Oh no, I’ve not arrived, but I’m on the road and Love is what gives me any kind of power to choose the better word, in any circumstance. Gradually new limbs are replaced, and hope comes alive in me, like a season of spring, which is something only possible in the realm of the healing words of God, but not by dwelling in the words of the flesh. The Word of God is not subject to the physical laws at work in this world, so new growth, hope, new life, is possible, out of death.
This is the hope and life we have to offer in a world filled of those wounded and bleeding, including ourselves. We, the walking creatures of the Way, we the people of the resurrection, we have hope, and we have life, the Living Word, living inside of us. Life-giving, pulsing, flowing, rich, full of the breath of God, are the words we can offer to a world of word-cut amputees, words of hope for new limbs, new hopes, new dreams, new life.
Violence begins in the heart, in each one of us. Let us choose not to contribute to the mess.