Words Create Worlds
Kenneth L Mills
Genesis 1:3 tells us that God spoke, and the world was created. Think about it: God spoke, and life was created. That was (is) a powerful Word! God’s Word created the world in which we live. His Word gave life and still gives life today! His Word saves, sanctifies, heals, and transforms! That is great news for us in these days of political unrest and pandemic distress.
God spoke, and what did He say? Jesus! (I think I remember Rueben Welch saying that once.) Jesus, who is the Word, demonstrated this power when He tabernacled with us for those few years. For example, in John 4:46-54, an official came to see Jesus because his son was sick to the point of death. He asked Jesus to come before his son died. But, instead of going with the man to heal the son (as Jesus often did with similar requests), Jesus told the man to “Go” and that his son would live. The man returned home and found his son was indeed healed at that time. We know that this was not the only time when He spoke healing, or life was given, such as the raising of Lazarus.
For the followers of Jesus Christ, there are basic directives as outlined by Him in the locked room following the resurrection. Jesus’ words were, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I am sending you” (John 20:21). These and other instructions from Jesus affirm His expectations, such as “I assure you that whoever believes in me will do the works that I do. They will do even greater works than these because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12). We often interpret these directives as actions and may be tempted to overlook the actual authority to speak and affirm life in His name. Do we understand how critical it is to speak grace to others?
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel was a theologian, author, teacher, and active participant in the civil rights movement. Heschel was born in Poland in 1907. The Nazis would eventually kill his mother and three of his sisters. His escape from the Nazis to America was facilitated by his giftedness in writing and teaching. The Rabbi wrote that “Words are themselves sacred, God’s tool for creating the universe, and our tools for bringing holiness — or evil — into the world.”
The Lewis Center this week quoted Barry Black, the chaplain of the Senate, as saying, “Words matter, and the power of life and death are in the tongue.” As leaders, our words matter in what we say and how we say it. We are called to be honest and to lead individuals toward God’s vision. Being honest does not mean blaming others or pointing fingers. It does mean naming the suffering and fear that occurred and is occurring. Honesty is never easy or convenient but is essential.
So, if our “words create worlds,” what’s our story? What are we building? What words are we using? Are they positive and uplifting or at least real or realistic? The words we use help shape the culture of our (and other’s) lives. When we tell someone, “I am so grateful that you’re in my life,” or “I love you,” those words can help heal broken hearts; they can make people feel more whole. When we share the truth of Jesus’ love for a person, those words can give hope and provide opportunities for transformation.
One of the reasons I am an avid supporter of sharing a benediction (blessing) following a worship service is because people need to hear (and feel) God’s good word of grace to and for them: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26, NIV).
What worlds are we creating with our words?