Yesterday (Friday) I joined with 25-30 people at the Municipal Building for a time of prayer. In response to a call for prayer issuing forth from Dallas we gathered to pray for the officers in our community, and the racial division which continues to ignite communities. It was short. Just a handful of us prayed. But in the midst of prayer, one pastor prayed, “God would you give us different language, for we know that words shape our world.”
Those words stuck with me.
Sometimes I am tempted to think that words are just words, but then I am reminded that I follow the one who is called “The Word.” (John 1) I am reminded that faith comes by hearing and hearing comes by the Word of God. (Romans 10) I am reminded that God created the world with a Word. (Genesis 1) I am reminded that Jesus has words of life and that even our tongue contains the power of life and death. (Proverbs 18) And of course I don’t need to be reminded, for I see it all around me, that a harsh word stirs up anger while a soft answer turns away wrath. (Proverbs 15)
Perhaps not just one word, but word upon word, spoken daily to others, to ourselves, even to God, they matter. Word upon word, heard daily by others, by ourselves, by God, they matter.
They have mattered to me.
Words spoken by Dr. Raleigh Washington at a Promise Keepers gathering mattered to me. He said,
“You cannot say that you care about racial tensions in America if you do not have a friend whose skin color is different from yours. You may feel like there is nothing you can do, but you can do that.” Those words convicted me and lead to the development of one of my most important friendships.
Words spoken by Harold McKenzie and his wife Sharon have mattered to me. In their own humble and gentle way they have shared with me and even taught me how words have impacted their world, both words of death and words of life.
And ultimately the words of Scripture have mattered to me. Paul reminds me in Romans 12:10 and Philippians 2:3 that if I seek to follow Christ I must go beyond “______ lives matter” to “your life matters more to me than my life.”
- Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:10
- Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Philippians 2:3
Jesus reminds me in the beatitudes (Matthew 5) that those who are blessed do not often look like those who are in power or those who are privileged. And from one end of the Bible to the other the Holy Spirit reminds me that in times like this, perhaps the most important words are the words that cry out from our hearts to the heart of God.
A Few Thoughts to Close:
- We pray like prayer is optional. What we have to offer the world is Christ. When we pray like prayer is optional it’s usually because we think we have something better to offer than Christ. We don’t.
- Choose with care the words that you write and the words that you speak, especially when they are words about stuff that matters to others.
- I’ll offer the same challenge that Raleigh Washington offered me. If you aren’t building a friendship with someone whose skin is different from yours, you may not care as much about what’s going on as you think.
- If you have shed no tears or felt no pain for life lost and people impacted, ask God to give you a taste of His heart for people. There isn’t a single person who has died or who has experienced lost, that Jesus doesn’t love deeply.
- Finally, perhaps sometimes being reconciled is more important than being right.