Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The power of words

Some time ago, a fellow preacher and I were talking about the power of words. In addition to preaching, my friend is an accomplished wordsmith and bibliophile. As we talked, he stunned me when, by way of illustrating his point he said, "For example, the word f--- is incredibly powerful." I agree with him and, in the conext in which he used it, the word was neither profane or offensive. Just, well, powerful.

Something I read today in Eugene Peterson's The Jesus Way reminded me of that conversation:
Everywhere and always as Christians follow Jesus we use words that were first used by God in bringing us and the world around us into being. Our language is derivative (as everything about us is!) from the language of God. Our common speech is in continuity with the language of God. Words are essential and words are holy wherever and whenever we used them. Words are inherently holy regardless of their employment, whether we are making up a shopping list, making conversation with an acquaintance on a street corner, praying in the name of Jesus, asking for directions to the bus station, reading the prophet Isaiah, or writing a letter to our congresswoman. We do well to reverence them, to be careful in our use of them, to be alarmed in their desecration, to take responsibility for using them accurately, and prayerfully. Christian followers of Jesus have an urgent mandate to care for language - spoken, heard, or written - as a means by which God reveals himself to us, by which we express the truth and allegiance of our lives, and by which we give witness to the Word made flesh. . . .

But by and large reverence for language is not conspicuous among us, in or out of the Christian community . . . . The consequence of that is that much of the talk in our time has become, well, just talk - not much theological content to it, not much personal relationship involved, no spirit, no Holy Spirit.
If Peterson is right, what are the implications for me as a parent? As a pastor? As a preacher?

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