I am a word guy. I love words. I love their power, their beauty. I love how words can paint a more beautiful picture than Michelangelo when they fall upon willing ears. I love how they can shape minds and change the course of history when crafted by a skillful mind. There is not a single great movement of history that was not directly associated with someone's powerful words. Words spoken on a hill before battle in high Scotland, words nailed to a door in Wittenburg, words spoken over an angry crowd of oppressed at the Lincoln Memorial, the dying words of a man on the cross.
These are words that changed the world. They shaped generations by their weight, and in-spite of their brevity. Do you think when Luther nailed his lengthy list of “propositions that will be discussed” to his equivalent of the town bulletin board he thought that many would be killing both in his name, and to stop the spread of his words? Words are keenly potent, even when we may not mean them to be.
Why else would the biblical author James, give so much weight to the danger of our words in the third chapter of his book saying:
When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
It is obvious that, bourn on by the Holy Spirit, James thinks words are worth sharp examination.
Do we sharply examine our words. In a day and age when information is constantly available I think our words have grown cheap. Because words are so very prevalent we often don't take the time to think deeply about their implications. However if what the bible says is true, and words are as powerful as it claims, its long since time that we reclaim our words, and make every word count for the kingdom.
Now if that in and of itself is not enough challenge for one night, let me set you up for the coming days. In light of our need to reclaim a Christ centered, bible focused criticism of our own words and the others who describe I've decided to take the coming days to lovingly, but ruthlessly tear apart 5 commonly used Christian phrases that I think are horribly misrepresenting their objects and injuring our goal. Is this nit-picky, pettifogging, splitting hairs? Yes, absolutely. But if we are to speak the truth we have to speak it rightly. Our words have unseen power and we need to make sure it is power for the right. If it is the rudder of the whole ship as James says, then it deserves special attention. In the coming days I'll expound on each, and why it has earned my ire, but for now without further ado five phrases every Christian should throw in the garbage.
“Its not religion”
“traditional and contemporary worship”
“God hates sin but loves the sinner”
“a spirit filled church”
“the emergent movement”
Now that I've insulted everyone at least once for the night, via con Dios.