Since the shootings in Arizona, everyone seems to be questioning whether words have consequences as if the brimming power of words is a brand new idea. Consider that no sword or gun initiated the American Revolution. Men like Thomas Paine and Samuel Adams ignited a fire for freedom in the breast of the colonists, not with weapons of force, but with well-crafted words designed to move people to action. The South’s secession from the Union during the Civil War unfolded in similar fashion with the publication of speeches and literature such as “The Ad-dress of the people of South Carolina, assembled in Convention, to the people of the Slaveholding States of the United States” and “Declaration of the causes which justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union.” While these two examples are limited in scope, I hope they make my point: words are never empty.
As a Christian, we are called to use our words to edify one another, love our neighbor, and pray for our enemies. These are the actions that unify us, and our unity is what testifies to the world that Christ is real (John 17). If we use our words to condemn people, whether it is the President of the United States or the neighbor who has annoyed us once too many times, our words destroy that which should be most precious to us – our ability to be a vessel through which God reveals himself.
Words are powerful – yours and mine. We can use them to sow seeds of hate or seeds of love within our own hearts as well as within the hearts of those listening. As for me, I do believe in the power of words, and I intend to watch mine a little more closely.