“Words are loaded pistols,” wrote philosopher Jean-Paul Sarte in his book, What is Literature?. And in our contemporary, culture, we seem to thrive on using them as such. Bullying has become a national epidemic. Countless news reports have shown the tragic emotional and physical effects bullying has had on our nation’s youth. CNN this week covered another story of a young woman who took her own life after being bullied by her peers. My husband and I have had to talk with our 6 year old son about how to deal with bullies. Being a little different, he is already a target in Kindergarten.
The worst part of it all is that bullying has become a seemingly acceptable part of our culture. Oh, we give good lip service about how terrible it is, but take a closer look at our media and you will see that it is a practice more condoned than condemned. Political adversaries use their words to rip each other apart. “News” programs splash the sordid tales and scandals of “celebrities” across both pages and screens, villifying or idolizing one star or another. Women are degraded and objectified in magazines, on television and in music. Hot topic issues become avenues of polarization rather than opportunities for growth and change. Our culture thrives on being mean. It’s disgusting, and our kids are paying the price.
As Christians, we have an obligation to change the part we play in this society of verbal abuse. It is an obligation that many churches have forgotten. Sometimes, as Christians, we use the Word, and our words, as weapons instead of tools for spreading God’s message of love and mercy. The author of the book of James refers to the tongue as “a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 3:8b) Rather, he counsels his readers to tame the tonuge and become “peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:17)
Likewise, Paul exhorts the Ephesians to use their words carefully. Paul recognized the power of words to harm and so instructed the Ephesians that whatever comes out of their mouths should be for the benefit of others, building them up rather than tearing them down. So let me ask you two questions today. And trust me, I am asking them of myself, as well.