While most of us have grown up with the rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will never hurt me,” we know that words have far more power than that simple childhood rhyme led us to believe.
Words have the power to create and destroy; to kill and give life. God works through words. In the beginning, the Word created the world and everything in it. In our daily life, our own words have the power to create and destroy the lives of our friends, family, and coworkers. Our words have the potential to give life or kill the life of the people around us, just as God’s own words do this in our life.
God’s word “kills us in order to make us alive.” He speaks his word of condemnation to shatter our self-made delusions about the kind of people we think we are. He reveals us for what we are in his sight and once we have been shattered, he reminds us of who he is.
God’s Word is made up of two words: Law and Gospel. The Law is the Word that kills. It kills the self-righteous, breaks the arrogant, and destroys the legalist. The Law reveals our sin and kills us so that we might be resurrected. The Gospel is the Word that gives life. It rescues the person who cries, “Lord have mercy on me a sinner.”
As Christians, we are given the sacred calling to speak God’s words in the places he has placed us. In our homes, in our families, in our neighborhoods, and in our workplaces God has called us to be people who speak his word in the unique places we have been placed.
In the words of Uncle Ben, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
We have a responsibility to use our words wisely. Our words have the power to correct those who live licentiously and falsely believe there is no law. And they have the power to set free those who have been enslaved by sin.
The Law will inevitably drive people to guilt and shame. These aren’t bad feelings when they drive us to repentance. But without the Gospel, they leave a person destroyed.
Guilt says, “I’m sorry, I did something wrong.” Shame says, “I’m sorry, there’s something wrong with me.” The Gospel speaks words of hope to both of these experiences.
It speaks to our guilt when it declares, “Your sins are forgiven.” The guilt has been removed. And it speaks to our shame, when it says, “You are not who you were.” Our identity is found in Christ, not in our shame. We are not only sinners, but we are also saints. And these are the words that we have the privilege to speak in our conversations, in our preaching, and in our writing.