Targeting Words

Gun crosshairs

Words become flesh--so watch them!

Matt. 5:21-22  "You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, 'You shall not murder'; and 'whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister you will be liable to the council; and if you say, 'You fool,' you will be liable to the hell of fire."

Those who did not see something like the violent events of yesterday coming need to step out of their bubbles and look around. 

The horrific and senseless shooting of Congresswoman Gabriella Giffords and others at an Arizona grocery store was a completely forseeable event that many of us have been raising alarm bells about since the hate-filled rhetoric of the 2008 presidential campaign.

Ironically, even Rep. Giffords herself pointed out in a March 2010 interview that having Sarah Palin put a gun target on her district was not particularly responsible.  Words matter, and one of the things that has baffled me for years is the number of Christians who don't seem to get it. 

Those who look to the Bible ought to remember that the pattern of Creation is "God said...and there was."  The world is created by words and the Word of God eventually becomes flesh in Jesus.  In Jesus we see the nature of God's words and the condition of God's heart.  Words become flesh, which is the nature of things, as many a psychologist will tell you.

Jesus takes pains to point this out in the above passage from the Sermon on the Mount.  It is part of Jesus' expansion of the Mosaic Law, including the Ten Commandments.  In each section Jesus begins with "You have heard it said," then he recites the law, then he takes it one step further. 

For example, not only should we not commit adultery, we're in trouble if we lust.  (Just ask Jimmy Carter.)  Jesus takes the "eye for an eye" law and says that instead we should turn the other cheek.  He takes "love your neighbor and hate your enemies" and turns it into love your enemies, too.  Most notably for the current news cycle, he says it's not enough to avoid murder, we need to avoid rage and name-calling.

The point is not to make life harder but to help us recognize that our actions do not materialize out of thin air; they begin as attitudes of the heart.  What is in our hearts will come out of our mouths (Luke 6:45) and then our words will become flesh.  It's all very biblical and all very true.

It is not enough merely to forbid something.  To really root sin out of our lives, we have to look inward.  We have to see what is brewing inside--what desires and feelings are taking hold and working their way to the surface.  The primary way to do that is to listen to our words and the words that we allow others to say in our presence. 

Whatever words fill our day...the words we say, the words we read, the words we hear on the radio or television or internet...those are the seeds of our future action.  If they are words of fear and rage and hate, then we are pouring toxins into our hearts; toxins that will eventually destroy us, our relationships, innocent bystanders, and ultimately our nation.

Christians, of all people, ought to know that words become flesh; words create reality.  The hate-filled airwaves and town hall meetings of these past years have been warning signs of the sin in our hearts.  Now in one terrible case that sin has become flesh.  If we don't heed the warnings and look within, there will be more.  Those who have taken the name of Christ should know better.

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