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Fruit or Poison? The Power of Words

This will be the first post of a (Lord-willing) weekly column about the intersection of life and Christianity for youth and their families. I hope this column can become a resource for RMPC on the topics which today's teenagers and their families face, but it will also drift beyond that into book and movie reviews, upcoming events, and snippets of daily life. I also want this to be an opportunity for me to become more disciplined in my writing, sharpening my ability to reach our youth where they're at.

I preached a sermon from Psalm 12 last Sunday evening about words, both the words of man and the words of God, and a few other reflections I didn't mention on Sunday come to mind. I've long thought that words are the most powerful weapons in the world. They can trigger wars, both between nations and individuals. Homes become war zones when parents and children treat words like weapons, sniping each other in the back or launching full frontal assaults at the dinner table. Fathers break promises to their children (see the movie Hook); children tattle and tell lies about each other; teens mock and belittle their parents (We Bought a Zoo); parents cut each other down. 

Yet so many still recite the old nursery rhyme, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me," or the more modern version I grew up with, "I'm rubber; you're glue. Whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you." Baloney. I remember feeling the sting of insults and criticism, the embarassment and shame involved. I also distinctly remember trying as hard as I could to inflict pain on others, using words like poisonous barbs to flog those who ticked me off, and I remember how good it felt to see those words hit their mark.

David cried out to God because life in society (including the home) was so obviously wrong, so obviously twisted and corrupted from the original state in which God created it. "Save, O Lord, for the godly one is gone!" God was the one who created the world from nothing using just words and pronounced it good. But we buy into the original lie that Satan told Eve: we can become like God, we can be our own masters. As a result, we twist the incredible gift of words and use them to hurt instead of to heal, to tear down instead of to build up, to kill instead of to give life (Prov 18:21). That's why we need God's final Word: his own Son, Jesus Christ. Our lies, insults, and betrayal nailed him to the cross; he bore the full weight and shame and guilt from our words. Yet through his death, the guilty go free, free to be honest, to encourage, to love as we have been loved.