But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

Galatians 5: 15

 

This idea might seem quaint, old-fashioned, or even foolish today. For the world where we live takes great delight in the way that we put down others and looks to gain power and dominance by means of the words that we use to describe people who differ from us. This is something that is going on across political, social, and economic lines, and it is, sadly, also far too much a part of the nature of the dialogue within the holy realm of Christ’s own church. Thus, what Jesus shed His most precious blood to consecrate is often being reduced to something that would shame a back-alley shout-down. This is true even when the civility of lowered voices and the decorum of the setting are maintained as a façade, for when the heart is enraged, its murderous intent still stings, wounds, and commits acts of murder upon the spirit

 

In Christ, we are called to something better than this. We are also led by the Spirit into a manner of engagement that should not utilize verbal and emotional assault as a weapon and that should not accept it in people who we follow and whose direction we take for the conduct of the business of our days. This is the sort of thing that diminished the God-image based humanity of all who enter into such exchanges, and I fear that this is the intent, either overt or underlying, of people who resort to verbal character assassination, graphically negative description of others, and rapid fire, long distance put-downs as a valid method of dialogue or debate. Yet, this is what we are doing. This is the way that we have become accustomed to hearing the views of those who rule this world expressed, and far too many of us in the church are applauding these utterly worldly words and giving credence to their cleverness, force, and truth-saying when they deserve nothing more than rejection and rebuke for the this-world centered nature and character of their content and the hurtful desire of their delivery.

 

In case you are beginning to look toward singular people and say that this is about one person or a specific point of reference in the on-going discourse of our world, please reconsider, think again. For my heart is troubled by much more than what a person or even a political party might be saying. I am joining with Paul in my concern over what is happening inside of Christ’s church. We can and perhaps even should disagree on the issues of our day. Yet, we should never look toward another follower of Christ in a manner that is dismissive or unloving and that does anything to sever the bonds of fellowship that Christ gave His all to construct among us. I will say this again, we can disagree. We even must disagree, for the dialogue around the way and the manner that God’s Word informs and speaks into the issues of our times is an important aspect of the way that the Spirit works out His will and intent in and among us. We should also hold our public figures accountable for speaking truth, for the direction that they lead us, and for the manner in which they engage in the discourse. However, we must never resort to the ways of this world in doing these things, for that path is one that does nothing other than bring division and destruction into Christ’s most precious body of faith.

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My help comes from the LORD,

who made heaven and earth.

Psalm 121: 2

 

In our world there are forces of nature and thee are natural forces. Both groups can be very powerful and have the capacity to bring about upheaval and disruption of life. However, it seems that the winds that blow as a result of hurricane, typhoon, and tornado are mild and rather calm when they are compared to the torrents of cold-hearted and acidic gusts that flow from the mouths of people. We are able to bring about destruction and inflict pain in ways that far exceed that which comes out of nature. Yet, the virulent anger that grounds the words of people in these times is also a force that comes our=t of our nature. It is rooted and nurtured in that part of our fallen humanity where fear rules the day and anger equals power and control.

 

The ways in which we communicate today have made it even easier to attack and to assault people with our words, for there is no longer the need to face your foe directly or to even disclose identity when doing it. People can say anything that they wish and send it out into the air without consideration for the recipient and with no need to get to actually know the person who is the target of those hurtful words. All of this, the anger, disrespect, anonymity, and aggression for the sake of power, are products of creation gone very far off course. None of this was inherent in the world that God designed and formed with His own hands; instead, it came into existence out of the fallenness of humanity and as a result of the broken nature of our relationship with our Lord. There is nothing contained in these forms of engagement that speaks of God’s love and grace or of Christ’s redemption.

 

Unfortunately these voices are not easily silenced, and they do not appear to be going away any day soon. In fact, the quantity and the volume of their words feel as if they are increasing daily. So, answers regarding dealing with it all need to come from sources beyond the world where we live. These are times when turning to the Lord for peace and for reason is essential. He speaks a form of truth that penetrates through the power of the words that are being hurled at us. Christ provides us with His purpose for our lives of service to Him, and He invites us into the same cruciform journey that He walked for the sake of His Gospel. This path is not easy or without its opposition, but it is surrounded and infused with the presence of the maker of heaven and earth. The One who made it all speaks to our troubled hearts and says to follow me, listen to my voice, and enter into my peace in the midst of the howling winds of this world.

 

 

Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous!

Praise befits the upright.

Psalm 33: 1

 

There is a lot of shouting going on these days, and very little of it is spoken in praise of God. In fact, when God is evoked, it is often in some form of negative manner in which either His wrath or His irrelevance is the subject of the ideas put forth. Make no mistake about it, I believe that words are powerful tools; they are the wrenches and rulers, the drivers and the mallets that fill my writer’s war chest. Words lift up and at other times they scrape the soil from under the feet. There is power in them. People are moved to take certain actions by the careful application of language. Mothers console with expressions of love and comfort, and the Father counsels us with His powerful words of truth and righteousness. The volume and the emphasis that we put behind the delivery of our language add the element of emotion and serve to personalize the lexical statements that we utter.

 

So, when it comes to making a sincerely loud noise in our world with our words, it seems to me that the ones that should come out first and with the greatest clarity are the ones that sing forth God’s nature, character, and engagement with our lives. In my experience, the Lord is the source of true joy in my days, strength for the journey, and peace in the course of its progress. God brings forth life where nothing more than a dry expanse of wasteland existed before His presence. Through Christ we are redeemed from a life of servitude to the oppressive forces of this world and to their false promises of safety and security, and in Christ we can live in the valid security of our souls and the safety for our hearts that comes only by and through His loving grace and mercy.

 

This does not mean that I think that followers of Christ should not be speaking out in favor of justice, peacemaking, and the extension of grace and mercy to people in our world, for I hold that doing these things is a God-mandated aspect of living as citizens of His kingdom come on earth. What I am saying is that the nature and the tone of our expressions should reflect the character and the person of our Lord. In Christ, all that we do and everything that we say is directly connected to Him, and all that we set forth in our days needs to be sourced from that relationship. If it is true for me and for you that Christ is the source of the joy in our lives, then everything that we place before the eyes of our world can be prefaced and framed in the context of that joy and related to its source. Thus, each statement that we make can be an expression of the Gospel of Christ and so a message of hope that can cut through the noise of this troubled world.

 

 

Your decrees are very trustworthy,

holiness befits your house,

O LORD, forevermore.

Psalm 93: 5

 

We are surrounded by people who like to hear themselves speak. They put out large volumes of words, and there is often great passion or power in what they say. At least there is the force of volume and the impact of invective in them; although, the content may be highly suspect. It seems as if we have two choices in it all if we desire to maintain sanity. We can buy into the message or the speaker and become followers of the cause, or we can tune it all out and hope that the racket moves on to some other neighborhood soon. Neither response is guaranteed to make any real difference in our world.

 

That reality leads to a third possibility. There is a source of rhetoric in our world that is reliably true and consistently righteous and just. God has spoken out with His words of life from before there was time. He has never stopped pouring forth the knowledge and the wisdom that creation needs to not only live but also to thrive in this universe of doubt, struggle, and death. The Lord speaks with a language that is woven through with love, grace, and mercy, and He grants these divinely authored attributes to anyone who seeks to know Him and to enter into relationship with God.

 

As we do surrender our own futile attempts to make sense of life and focus the reception of our minds and the hearing of our hearts on God’s word of life, we also move our place of dwelling from out of the shadow of the world’s chaos; so, we dwell under the covering of the holiness of the Lord. Yet, God does not intend for this house of peace and justice to be a shelter or a sanctuary in which we escape engagement with the messiness of this world. Instead, the Lord desires for His people to fill to fullness on His Word and go into the raucous discord of our community with Christ’s relentless message of love, peace, and reconciliation. We are to be bold and passionate doers of truth, relentlessly seeking justice, and respectfully confronting the world’s lies and deception with confident words of grace that come from our Lord.