The psalmist pleads, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14). This prayer of the psalmist stands in contrast to how our disposable culture uses empty words flippantly. We assume everyone is selling something. We expect our leaders to lie to us. We emphasize the individual over the community and talk mostly about ourselves. We look out for number one and demand things go our way. But our words have meaning and impact others. Consider some of the things conveyed by our words:
From the heart the tongue overflows. The tongue is not easily managed without God in control. On our own we are powerless to completely tame our tongues, we need a faithful Savior to provide us renewal. It may be pointless to restrain our tongues when what we really need is a change of heart. We need God to cleanse the heart out of which the mouth speaks. We serve a God with the power to change hearts and minds. What we are powerless to accomplish, our God is capable of securing.
We all bear scars from words that have been said to us in anger. A harsh word from a parent or a disparaging remark from a friend damages our hearts. All the words that we have heard write on the slate of who we are. We cringe when we think of harsh words that we ourselves have said to others. Our words cannot be unsaid, so it is critical that we learn to express ourselves in ways that do not cause injury to others. Every word we say can be forgiven by God, but those impacted by our words might be forever wounded. We often place distance between us and those who have hurt us--it is a natural response--but it leaves distance into our relationships.
One critical word spoken in a group soon ripples discontent through the whole group. A harsh comment spreads like a virus, and soon the air becomes filled with negativity. A little angry and insulted, we respond in kind before we are aware of what we are doing. Caught up in the wave of frustration, our tongue ignites our pent up anxiety.
Responding in love can defuse that critical word. Responding in love can bring healing to the wounds of the past. Responding in love can cover a multitude of sins. Just as we recall painful words, we also recall healing words. We hang on to the words of blessing or encouragement that inspire us to reach out in love.
God commands us to live in love with one another. We are called to be a community recognized for its love of one another. Ephesians 4:29 says, "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." Let our words be grace to the ear of someone else.
So our choice of words really does matter. Our words need to be chosen with great care. We may not have had healthy examples of how to speak lovingly to one another, but we can choose to let that negative cycle end with us. Ask God to be the master of your heart and let him fill your heart with compassion that overflows to others. God did not leave us alone in our struggles, but rather he walks with us through every heartache that we face. Allow God to shape and mold your heart according to his will.
Rev. Dr. Steven Koster