SPEAK KINDLY 8-12-18
August 12, 2018
My Children’s Message was about bullies. I’m willing to bet every one of you has dealt with a bully at some time in your life. Hopefully none of you ever was one! Bullies can make a person’s life a living hell. As I was contemplating the formation of this sermon, my mind drifted back to my grade school days. We lived on Wilson Ave on the northside of Chicago. Haugan public elementary school was one block north of us on Hamlin Ave. It is a huge school that takes up an entire city block. The school I attended, Tabor Lutheran grade school, was 3 blocks south, and one block west, on the corner of Sunnyside and Drake. I had to walk to school every day the opposite direction of the kids walking to the public school. If I had a dollar for every time I got shoved, tripped, had my books knocked on the ground, or was called names I would be a very rich person. To make matters worse, I wasn’t exactly accepted by my own classmates either. Because of high achievement test scores, I skipped a grade, so was younger than the other kids in my class. I also was not exactly the prettiest girl either. If you ever watched the show, Big Bang Theory, I was the “Amy”, who desperately wanted to be “Penny”. (And yes, those who know me well will tell you I ended up being more like “Bernadette”). But my point is, while those years may have helped me build character, they were anything but pleasant. Some people would love to relive their childhood years. I would not.
Psychologists will tell you a number of reasons some people become bullies. They vary from low self-esteem and being abused themselves, to just the opposite – being a psychopath that takes great delight in inflicting physical and emotional pain, and exerting power over others. Either way, the harm they do can cause permanent injury to their victims. The physical wounds will almost always heal, but the emotional scars remain, often surfacing during times of stress or other triggers that bring buried memories rushing to the surface.
The Bible speaks of the devastating power of the tongue. In our first Scripture reading (James 3:1-10) you heard how “It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself” (vs 6). Indeed, words that wound are fueled by the fire of hell. For who is the biggest psychopath of all, who takes great delight in inflicting physical and emotional pain, and exerting power over others? None other than Satan himself! And he is always looking for someone he can use as his mouthpiece.
As Christians, we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us, giving us the power to both control our own tongues, and to overcome the wounds others have inflicted upon us…
Our second Scripture reading (Ephesians 4:25-32) told us to “not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (vs 29). Before you speak, ask yourself, does what I am about to say encourage and build up, or discourage and tear down? Will it be of benefit to the person or persons who are listening? Does it address their needs? Or does it only concern itself with my needs at their expense? Do my words glorify God and share His love with others? Or perhaps without even realizing it, am I allowing Satan to use me to cause pain to a brother or sister in Christ? Or to keep an unbeliever from seeking Christ? The former is bad enough, but the latter? What if your words actually convince an unbeliever that Christ is not the answer, that Jesus couldn’t possibly love him, and that if the church is Christ’s representative on earth, then he certainly doesn’t want to be a part of it? I guarantee you, you will have to answer for that. As you heard in our third Scripture reading (Matthew 12:33-37), “I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you” (vs 36-37). Now, of course, we are not under eternal condemnation if we have received the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior, putting our trust in his sacrificial death and resurrection for the forgiveness of our sins; but remember those verses from Matthew also indicate that if we truly have put our trust in Jesus and received the Holy Spirit, then our lives, which include our words, will reflect that. If they do not, then you must seriously examine your own heart to see if you have indeed repented of your sins and sought the cleansing blood of Christ.
Always remember that words carry great power. God created the universe through his son, Jesus, who John calls “The Word”. He spoke the universe into existence. Words can create and give life (John 1:1-4), but words can also kill and destroy. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). The thief is Satan, who seeks to steal our joy, kill our hope, and destroy our faith. And to replace it with hate, despair, and fear. He is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). But Jesus is truth, and speaks nothing but truth. And that truth is that He loves you, and that you are of very great worth. You are worth so much to Him that if you were the only person that ever lived on the face of the earth, He would have come to suffer and die just for you. And He loves the person next to you just as much as well. And that person you work with who can challenge your patience. And that person who was rude to you the other day. And even that person who caused you those scars you still have from years ago. Yes, he loves that person, too. Because remember, it is our sins, yours and mine, that gave Jesus the scars He still bears from Calvary. But love overcomes all that is evil, all that is of Satan. Yes, Jesus defeated Satan at the cross, where He took all of our scars and made them His own. But they could not destroy him, they could not rob him, they could not defeat him. He rose, and we will rise, too.
So as you go forth today, may the wounds of Christ heal your own (Isaiah 53:5). And please, remember to always speak kindly. Amen.
VIDEOS: "Fear is a Liar" (Zach Williams) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1X8-dDvXkCY
"The Words I Would Say" (Sidewalk Prophet) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8t9u-LOa3OI
Bullies are mean,
Their words are cruel,
They say that you’re ugly,
And they call you a fool.
They like to make fun,
Of all that you do,
And take great joy,
In hurting you.
They speak from hate,
And not from love,
Because they don’t know,
Our Lord above.
Don’t listen to them,
Their words are not true,
It’s the devil talking,
And he’s lying to you.