“Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light” (Gen. 1:3). From the very beginning of the universe, words have held immense power. It was through the divine power of God’s words that this world came into perfect existence; and through the evil power of Satan’s words, this world began its journey to its current state.
Words can build up or tear down, calm the heated, or start a revolution. Yet, for all their power—perhaps because of their power—words may be the most misused and overused weapon of all time.
While words have always held great power, they were historically limited in their sphere of influence. The power of the word was felt only by those in close proximity to the speaker. As time continued, words were printed and published, then broadcast, and now they are tweeted and shared to millions around the world in a matter of seconds. Because it is so easy now to post while maintaining relative anonymity, many people are emboldened to say things they may be ashamed to say in person. With such great power and such great reach, the potential for damage is enormous.
Sadly, that enormous potential is realized far more often than this world needs. The news is filled almost daily with stories of horrific outcomes that began as bullying or hateful rhetoric. Over and over, the mighty word makes its mark.
Bridling the tongue
For those who follow Christ, avoiding damaging communication really should be a no brainer. Christ-followers have read James 1:26 “If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.” Christ followers know Jesus Himself said, “Hear and understand: Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man” (Matt. 15:10-11).
It is because the world knows Christ-followers should be aware of these things, that it is so disappointing to find a proclaimed Christ-follower speaking words of anger, division and even hatred. At times, the very name of God is even used to justify these words.
Not long ago, I was part of a conversation discussing Satan’s systematic plan to assassinate the character of God. By convincing the world that even evil actions and outcomes are somehow God’s fault, Satan can paint a picture of God that few would want to see. The most troubling thought from that conversation was the idea that Christians often unwittingly help paint that awful image. Christians, in an attempt to defend righteousness, end up speaking in ways that alienate others from God; ways that the very God they’re trying to defend cannot endorse.
Those who claim the name of Christ have the awesome privilege and responsibility of reflecting God’s character to the world. Shouldn’t we capitalize on that opportunity? There are so many negative voices in the world already. Should not followers of Christ provide a counterpoint, a balance, and maybe even tip the scales in favor of peace, unity, and love? Our best defense of God is accurately reflecting who He is—His love, mercy and kindness.
When silence isn’t golden
There’s the old saying “if you don’t have anything good to say, say nothing at all.” But there’s a problem with that. Silence in the presence of evil may be just as damaging as the evil itself. For all the damage words can cause, there is still enormous potential for good in words and we have the opportunity to realize that potential. Prov. 15:4 reminds us that “a wholesome tongue is a tree of life.” Our words hold too much power for us to remain silent.
Maybe it’s time to update the old saying. “If you don’t have anything good to say, find something!” The opportunity to make this world a better place and rightly represent God presents itself everyday: we can no longer sit silently as those opportunities pass us by.
Our words are a window into our character and a reflection of the God we serve. What have your words been saying about you? And about God?
This article is reprinted with permission from Mountain Views Summer 2018.