Friday, August 23, 2019

Words of the Wicked

Proverbs says that the words of the wicked are a deadly ambush. That seems like rather strong language, doesn't it? An ambush...really? An ambush is a vicious, savage attack that you don't see coming. How can the words of the wicked be an ambush?

Most of us, when we read the Scriptures, have convinced ourselves that we already know the wicked from the righteous. We already know who is wicked in our world. We already know what they're all about, and we could pick them out of a line-up if you gave us the chance. We have in our heads very clear understandings of wickedness, so we believe ourselves to be prepared for it. Wickedness could never "ambush" us; we're too smart, too attentive for that. 

At the same time, we know this truth all too well. We live in a world that lives and dies by the word, where mere words and ideas are weapons of war. Our battles are fought in language, and it's the loudest word - not the truest word - that wins. 

This is hard for those of us who still believe in absolute truth. Who still believe there are real values, real ideas, real truths that we ought to hang our hats on. We can speak with all the boldness, confidence, and assurance of our ideas, but then we're blindsided by a world that not only tells us we're morons, but convinces us of it, but nothing but its shouting. Our ideas are not welcome here, and that takes us aback.

Not welcome? But they are true. 

Ah, friend - there is no truth in a world where word is warfare. There is only volume and attack. Ambush. 

Part of me was wondering this morning, even before I picked up this note to write, whether this is not why we are seeing more gun violence in our culture. You'll notice that our gunmen always have something they wholeheartedly believe; they have a truth. They hold to something. And I wonder if they just haven't been bullied, belittled, and shouted down so much, called morons so often, ambushed by those who disagree with word frequently that they just can't take it any more. That all they want is a place to believe in the world, and the world won't afford them that. The only way to get it is to silence the world. So they silence the world through gunfire. 

I wonder if we couldn't dramatically reduce our gun violence if we would just...listen to each other again. Let a man believe something. Stop thinking that language is a weapon, that our battles are fought in words, that volume matters more than truth. What if you could let a man have a truth again, even if you disagreed with it? Talk it out, not talk it down. 

I don't know. I digress. 

The point is that the words of the wicked are an ambush because they attack us usually at the point at which we are most confident. They take aim at the things we most firmly and assuredly believe. We have these ideas that are so true in our understanding and experience that we can't fathom that there would be anyone who would have any reason to dispute them, and then the words of the wicked come and call into question what we know that we know...and it rocks us. It takes us by surprise and kicks the full breath out of us. 

Just think about some of the battles we're fighting right now that our ancestors could not have imagined years ago. Abortion, for example. It was not that long ago that it was completely unfathomable that someone would argue that it is not only right, it is good, for a woman to be able to terminate a pregnancy - children were a gift from God. So many children were dying young as it was, from diseases we didn't understand and lifestyle factors we hadn't yet controlled. Children were dying from hunger and poverty and distress. Children were dying in the womb because we did not know what pre-natal care would give them the best chance at living. Every child who lived to be born and who survived the first year and grew up was a miracle. We knew this, without question. 

And then a wicked word popped up - but you don't have to have a baby, even if God gives you one. It took our breath away. We didn't know how to respond. We fumbled around and flailed our arms in the dark, trying to find footing to fight back. We never expected ourselves to be here; it was an ambush. By a mere idea, a mere word. And we're still fighting. 

So you have to be careful, especially now. Especially in a world that lives by its own words and fights by them. Especially in a place where truth doesn't matter any more...only volume. The words of the wicked are still an ambush, and they're sharper than ever. They are challenging so much of what we have to hold onto. Can we hold onto truth when wickedness jumps out of the bushes to take it from us?

That is the test of God's people, in this generation just like many others. But in this generation, perhaps even moreso. For this is not just a weapon of our world; it is its sharpest sword. 

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