One week off from writing, and I struggle to focus on what words I should share. Words are powerful tools and they can also be powerful weapons. I pray that my words are tools for positive change in one’s life, not a weapon or hurtful to those who read/hear them.
Not only am I working through a year-long Bible study, I am participating in a study by two women who have created Bible studies for educators. Having been a classroom teacher, I relate to their focus and their unique style.
The study is Just Jamesand I am still working on week three. Yesterday I was doing Day 3 and the lesson focused on James 2:1-7 and how well we treat one another. I marvel at the timeliness of the lesson in light of the recent political arena.
In this reading, the focus is on how well we treat each person regardless of who they are, how they present themselves, or how we judgethem. The words clearly tell us notto judge, yet what we do and we say often reflect a judgment, often unflattering.
And sometimes our words hurt others almost as much or more than our actions. Sadly the words do mirror our hearts and may not reflect our Christian values.
Before going any further, read through this scripture from James:
My dear brothers and sisters,[a] how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?
2 For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting[b] dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. 3 If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, 4 doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?
5 Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him? 6 But you dishonor the poor! Isn’t it the rich who oppress you and drag you into court?7 Aren’t they the ones who slander Jesus Christ, whose noble name[c] you bear? [NLT]
I find it interesting to check various translations, and the NLT, which I used, places this scripture under the heading: “A Warning against Prejudice”. This pushed me to check other translations and I found these headings:
- NRSV: “Warning against Partiality”
- CEB: “Don’t Show Favoritism”
- NIV: “Favoritism Forbidden”
- NKJV: “Beware of Personal Favoritism”
- MSG: The Royal Rule of Love”
- ESV: “The Sin of Partiality”
(used by the Just James study)
My concern over the words we currently hear in the news are so focused on negative images, that I also spent time researching a variety of words that are synonyms: bigotry, racism, favoritism, xenophobia, discrimination—and other synonyms listed on the lexico.com website.
These are words that are related and they are hurtful. The words fill our headlines and mirror our society’s heart. This is not the reflection I like seeing. And it places the value of James’s words into my consciousness: Words hurt. Words mirror hearts.
Over the past two decades, the concept of hospitalityin our churches has been a major emphasis, especially during Bishop Robert Schnase’s appointment to the Missouri UMC. Hospitality mirrors our hearts. To honestly be hospitable, I see the importance of keeping judgment in any form out of my personal lifestyle.
“Open hearts, open minds and open doors” is part of who I am, especially as a Methodist. I do notwant to be someone who ‘judges’ others entering the church’s door nor when I meet them one-on-one. I want to accept each person for whom they are, not who I think they should be.
Do not get me wrong; I am human. I do read people, so to say, and enjoy the activity of people watching wherever I am. But, I want to be open to them, to love them as God asks us to love them. I want to accept them as they are and do all that I can to show they are loved as one of God’s children.
I want my words to be a mirror of my Christian faith and I want them to mirror my love for them. I do not want my words to hurt others—and if I ever do I hope I can be honest enough to recognize the hurt and apologize.
Yet, in our 21stcentury culture this is becoming a challenge. We are constantly told to be alert to the strangers around us. Not to talk to strangers. Not to trust . . . well, you understand.
Our society is filled with such wickedness that we must be vigilant. We must be safe. We must teach our children how to be safe, too.
And then there is the political culture that permeates the news, too. How in the world can we maintain our Christian values when all the pressures in our society seem to weaken our resolve to love one another as we want to be loved.
Becoming political in a blog or a sermon is NOT wise. Yet as a Christian I am offended by the judgments being espoused by our society, especially by our elected officials. How does the very one Christian commandment that encompasses all other laws allow for any behaviors that are being exhibited by our own elected officials!
This morning I checked the KC Star Opinionsection and found this editorial cartoon and groaned once more.
What are we doing to ourselves!
Words hurt! Words mirror our hearts.
As a teacher, I worked hard to have students understand the values of the US Constitution. I walked the fine line of keeping church and state separate, but I also worked hard to show how our country’s values were designed to prevent favoritism, prejudice, partiality.
Today’s society is challenging the very values we as Christians have vowed to live and to teach.
Today’s society is challenging the very values the founders of our nation outlined.
I believe that my Christian values supersede all other legislation and I pray that I live them out loud. I pray that others agree and that together the value we place on each human being can heal the divides that continue to be perpetuated. We must eliminate words that hurt.
Please join me in prayer:
Dear Omniscient One,
Forgive my human weakness of judging others.
Strengthen my resolve to love one another
Show me the way to accept each person
for who they are and as they are.
And for those I meet who judge me,
let me love them anyway..
Let my words not hurt others;
May my words mirror what you have taught.
In the name of you, Lord, our God,
With the teachings of your son Jesus Christ,
And with the power of the Holy Spirit within.