The universe was brought into existence with words. In the first chapter of John, he declares that Jesus was the Word, and the Word was God (I know a lot of people equate the "Word" to Scripture, but since the New Testament wasn't compiled until much later, I think John is referring to something deeper, less comprehensible, in his opening chapter). Time and time again, Jesus commanded His disciples to use the power of words to bring the kingdom of Heaven down to Earth--to cast out demons, to speak healing over the sick, to invite the very Presence of God into the hearts of humankind. And when I say "Jesus commanded His disciples," what I'm actually trying to get at is: Jesus commanded us.
However, as is the case with most forms of power, what can be used for good can also be used for evil. I could go on for years about this subject. Jesus talks about this over and over again, and James 3 is famous for it. But for the moment, I simply want to focus on one little passage that I ran across only a few minutes ago, that tugged my heart with just enough insistence to make me pay attention.
"Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken." (Matthew 12:34-36, emphasis added)Ouch. I don't know about you, but I say a lot of careless words. I say a lot of things that don't come from love. Or truth. It's so easy to say bad things about people. To get together with friends who we know will agree with us, and get those bitter thoughts out so we can laugh about it, pretend that it's no big deal. And when our friends come to us and talk about this person who is so annoying, or that person who is such a jerk, which of us does not go along? Sometimes, during these conversations, God gives me the presence of mind to step outside myself, and when I do, it breaks my heart. And still, I let the conversation continue.
We are the children of God, whose first and foremost calling is to love. Everyone. Especially, especially, the ones whom we find most unloveable. Our enemies. The people who get on our nerves. The ones who make us cringe when we catch sight of them. And most of the time, we're nice to their faces, while we disparage them not only in our minds (which is wrong just the same), but also out loud as soon as they leave the room. We are speaking the evil inside us into an external existence. That is the overflow of our heart--a heart that we claim belongs to God.
And those words are going to be called into account one day. Our words have power. To call forth life, or death. To build up, or to destroy. Sure, it's easy to encourage the people we love, but what credit is that to us? It doesn't take a transformed heart to do that (Matthew 5:46-47).
What does take a transformed heart is loving those who seem to clash with us in every way. It takes a miracle that only the Spirit of God can perform. And that miracle is seeing people as God sees them. He strips away all those quirks that get under your skin and reveals who they really are--a beautiful child, created by Him, a brother or sister who has been bruised and battered and broken by the world just as you have.
We look down on other people to make ourselves feel better, but the truth is, we're just the same. That's why there's no use comparing, who's better or worse. We've all fallen. We're just as "unloveable," at our core; the only difference is, we're probably better at hiding it from the rest of the world. But God loves them every bit as much as He loves us, despite all their (and our) mess. That's why He's called us to this, a life of loving, which is a lot like dying. Maybe that's why we fear it so much. I have found no words that sum this up more perfectly than Donald Miller's, in his book, Blue Like Jazz, a prayer that I have made my own when it comes to loving others:
"I will love you like God, because of God, mighted by the power of God. I will stop expecting your love, demanding your love, trading your love, gaming for your love. I will simply love. I am giving myself to you, and tomorrow I will do it again. I suppose the clock itself will wear thin its time before I am ended at this altar of dying and dying again."Because that's what is truly incredible and beautiful about this story that God has brought us into: it's so much bigger than us.