By Paul Koch –
Polonius: What do you read, my lord?
Hamlet: Words, words, words.
Words; our lives are saturated in them. They roll around in our minds, exit our mouths and fill our eyes and ears. They shape our thoughts and seep through our fingers to paper and ink, or for that matter, keyboards and touchscreens. And as Hamlet’s sarcasm highlights, words are never detached from meaning. When we read, we read more than words.
However, just because words have meaning doesn’t mean they mean very much.
We use our words without much discretion or thought. We spew them out and offer them up without considering their value or benefit. I don’t think we can help it; it’s simply a byproduct of our humanity. Our words are like the garbage that builds up in our homes; if we didn’t have convenient little trash cans to take to the curb once a week, what would we do with it all? We bury ourselves and those around us in our words and they bury us in theirs.
Because of this, it never ceases to amaze me that our Lord chooses the vehicle of our words to do his great work. In spite of our gross misuse of them he confiscates our words for his own purposes.
“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.'” (John 20:21-23)
Jesus tells them the plan, the means by which the gifts of Calvary and the promise of the empty tomb will go out into the world. Words. The disciples are sent out to speak the words of freedom, that is the words of forgiveness and life. Those that they speak forgiveness to will be forgiven and if they withhold forgiveness it is withheld. This is the plan and there doesn’t seem to be a Plan B.
Speak the words and there is freedom. Do not speak them and there is only bondage.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it this way:
“God has put this Word into the mouth of men in order that it may be communicated to other men. When one person is struck by the Word, he speaks it to others. God has willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of man. Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth. He needs his brother man as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation. He needs his brother solely because of Jesus Christ. The Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother; his own heart is uncertain, his brother’s is sure.”
The Word of Life has claimed the words of your brother or sister for his use. And your words as well. Though our words may pour forth without thought or careful consideration, though they may be ugly or course, they find beauty and wonder when they carry the work of forgiveness to the ears of a neighbor.
The Word made flesh reconciled you to the Father, he has claimed you as his own. Who would’ve guessed that he had redeemed your words in the process?