Salvation ... comes from the Lord ... because they take refuge in him. (Psalm 37:39-40)

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Words Matter for Leaders

            Topics in the previous (part 1) article discussed euphemism,  political correctness (PC), and abuse by the media.  Reading it will help provide a foundation for what I address here to leaders and specifically Christian speakers.   
            In the book of James a warning is given that, "we who teach will be judged more strictly" (James 3:1).   I believe that part of this judgment involves the words we use and the care given to choosing biblical correctness over political correctness (see also 2 Timothy 4:3). 
            Inaccurate speech dilutes and devalues the message.  I used the example of the word "choice" in the previous article.  Another example is the word "gay."  Gay has become a euphemism for the word homosexual.  In addition, attaching the word gay to the word marriage makes it a much more complicated issue.  Every time the word marriage is used to describe a homosexual union, the true biblical definition of the word marriage (and the Word of God) is down graded and  defamed. 
            I agree with the comments of psychologist and author Dr. James Dobson in this video following the June 16, 2016 US Supreme Court decision: .  Marriage is a God-ordained institution and cannot be redefined by a man-made court.  Our speech must uphold the godly definition.  Christ himself says, "at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,  and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’" (Matthew 19:4-5).  If we believe Christ's words there is absolutely no way to justify using the term "same-sex" to describe a marriage relationship. 
            It grieves me deeply every time I hear a pastor or Christian leader use the words "gay" (or "same-sex") and the word "marriage" together to describe the unholy union of homosexual relationship.  A position of leadership and influence requires a closer scrutiny of the words used to speak truth and wholeness for personal and community well-being.  This terminology is a crafty twist of the truth conceived by the enemy of our souls.  A Proverb says, "A fool’s mouth is his ruin, And his lips are the snare of his soul" (Proverbs 18:7).  Words matter.  We should not be foolishly repeating words we picked up through the media (or any other source) when they so blatantly defy the Truth.  
            Dr. Dobson and others warn of the dangers of redefining marriage.  Whenever a word (like marriage) is misused, the true meaning is diminished.  When "same-sex marriage" is spoken, the biblical definition is degraded and disavowed.  Words matter.  They speak life and support of true marriage, or they speak death and detract from the true meaning of marriage.  
            As the moral climate of our culture deteriorates, examples of these kinds of misuse of words are on the increase.  We must be vigilant to recognize the falsehood, and use alternatively accurate words to ensure integrity of speech. 
            In case you still think I'm making a big deal out of nothing, consider further what the Bible has to say about words.  In the context of prayer and communicating with God, Ed Kurath in the book I Will Give You Rest writes,  "For some reason, God set up the universe in such a way that words have power. Then God said, "Let there be light," and there was light (Genesis 1:3). The words that I speak bring my thoughts into reality. Once they are spoken, it is as though a legal contract has been signed, or a legal event has happened, in the spiritual realm. The words can be "bad" and bring about difficulty (for example judging), or they can be "good" and bring about life (for example blessing someone)." 
            A spoken word has great power.  In fact, we call the Bible "the Word" of God because it carries the authority of God.  God's authority is supreme authority.  God's authority is revealed through a number of human beings recording His words throughout a period of time to be included in the cannon of Scripture.  Consider what is recorded in the Bible about God Himself.  John records in his gospel, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:1-5). 
            Jesus came as the Word.  Our very life depends on the Word.  Every person's soul is doomed to darkness without the light of the Word.  The Word speaks life.  The Word speaks light.  To be called disciples of Christ, we must speak the Word.  We must speak light.  We must speak life.   
            My purpose for writing this is not only to raise awareness of language used toward evil ends, but to encourage speakers of truth to redeem the spoken language.  We must be careful not to use strictly PC speech, and let people know why we are using terms which speak truth.  It's not enough to use "biblically correct" language ourselves, but we must teach other disciples of Christ to do so as well.  If Jesus is the Word, we must represent Him with our words.  If the Bible is the Word, we must use words that speak Truth.  If Jesus matters to you, words matter.  If the Bible matters to you, words matter. 
            Please understand I am not advocating using inconsiderate, insensitive, or deliberately offensive language to make a point.  With love as our motivation (see Ephesians 4:25), we must demonstrate the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our speech (Galatians 6:22).  Because ultimate Truth rests with God, there will always be some people offended by the Truth (see 1 Peter 2:8).  Some will label Truth speakers as intolerant, bigoted, and phobic.  We may even be called "deplorables" and "irredeemables" (if you remember the 2016 political candidate using those terms). There will always be those who consider the Truth to be "hate speech."  Hatred of the Word is what put Jesus to death. 
             Proclaimers of the Word are not called to be trendy, relatable, or relevant as a first priority.  Considering our audience or delivery methods is not as important as considering who owns the message we have to deliver.  Jesus himself says, "The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work" (John 14:10).  Jesus says this in the context of explaining that He and the Father are one.  Christ's message is Father God's message.  As Christ's disciples, our message is Father God's message. 
            The phrase "same sex marriage" pollutes the atmosphere with a false, ungodly  message.  Never, never, say it!  By speaking the words we are  participating in the acceptance of the practice of homosexuality.  Worse yet, we   are speaking death to marriage.  Next to our relationship with God, marriage is the most sacred relationship mankind can know.  Marriage is God's creation from the beginning and provides the foundation for human existence.  The definition of marriage cannot be tampered with. 
            A message is made of the words used to deliver it.  Words matter. "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart; be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer" (Psalm 19:14).  May this be the prayer of our heart, and the motivation for the words we speak. 

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry