09 Jul Words Matter
It is in times like these when we should understand what we already know to be true. Words matter. What words we use, how we use them, and when we use them matter. There are those who stand behind lecterns in the Oval Office, in Police Headquarters, and in the media who use these times to speak boldly and passionately. There are those who stand behind pulpits in churches, and posts on social media who also speak boldly and passionately. They take advantage of one of the greatest freedoms we have in America: Freedom of Speech. I support everyone’s right to speak boldly at any time on any subject they choose. That includes the right to speak words that are offensive, and even hateful. We can never allow our Freedom of Speech to be censored in this country, no matter how ugly and painful it may be. It may at sometimes be wrong, but it is our right as Americans.
However, times like these remind us that words matter. Most of those who speak boldly and passionately finish their speeches and go on living their lives just as they had before they spoke. But there are unstable people in the world, and in America. They listen to the words, and they hear a call to action. These unstable people take angry and hateful words to an end that most of those who spoke the words would never have intended or imagined. Then the speakers speak with even more anger, then the other side responds with more anger, and more unstable people turn those words into tragic events that just keep the cycle going.
It is my hope that those who feel it is necessary to give speeches, make statements, and post opinions would understand that people are listening and reading those words. In some cases there are unstable people listening and reading. The right that we have as Americans to speak whatever we think or feel does not make it the right thing to do. There is a responsibility that comes with Freedom of Speech. In my opinion, no one has ever spoken more boldly and passionately than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Yet he chose his words carefully, aware that unstable people were listening. His words inspired countless numbers of people, challenged society in unfathomable ways, but never gave any of his listeners license to do acts of violence.
I don’t have social, cultural, or political solutions to these horrible problems we are facing today. I pray that those who serve in those arenas will choose to tone down their rhetoric, be more responsible with their words, and work towards peace instead of their personal agendas. For those of us who stand behind pulpits, I challenge us also to be more responsible with our words, to resist the pull of our own personal feelings and agendas, and to simply preach the Bible clearly, for it is in the Word of God that we will find the ultimate solutions for this life and the life to come.
Words matter. But for me, the Word of God matters above all.
Pastor David Sharp