Why is that that we, as Christians, should place a special emphasis on noticing the way that words are used, and abused, in our culture?
Quite simply because we understand the true power of words.
We know that in the beginning, God spoke the world into being. One by one, thing by thing, being by being, God created (almost) everything we know by nothing more than saying the word. (Man, of course, He formed by hand.) John tells us that in the beginning was the Word, and that Word was Jesus Himself. Throughout the Scriptures, we are reminded of the power of a simple word. We are shown again and again and again that words bring life.
And that's what we're seeing happen in our culture right now. We are watching words be used to bring death, even to bring death to other words those words accuse of bringing death by the very same means that they are condemning in the first set of words, and we, who know the true power of words, are sitting by, basically singing "Sticks and stones." We're sitting around pretending that words don't matter when we know better.
We know better because our faith is founded on them.
It's frustrating. It's frustrating to see the church have absolutely no response to the way that culture abuses language for power. It's frustrating to see us sitting on the sidelines pretending that that's just the way things are and that there's no other way to be doing it.
Forget that we are a people called to love one another, even to love our enemies. We're just as guilty as the rest of them in the way that we use our language. But maybe that's a digression. Or maybe it's not. What I know - what we know - for certain is that the church has not yet risen up to give power back to the word in a world that keeps trying to give words to power. We have not yet seen the people of God, the people of the Word, rise up in defense of language, testifying to the life-changing power that it has.
Instead, we've seen Christians cower, afraid of the same kind of force of language coming against them that comes against everyone who dares to speak out against our use of it. The minute you become a voice that says that this isn't how language is meant to be used, you get shouted down - or worse. And I get it, it's frustrating. Because all it takes is for one person to say that what your words mean is something different than what your words said or even intended, and all of a sudden, you're the one whose words need torn down, right at the point where you were trying to use them to build up.
Does that mean, though, that we're supposed to stop trying? Does that mean that we just give our language away because it's going to be used against us anyway? Does that mean that we stop speaking life just because the world is going to shout it down in death?
It can't mean that. It just can't. Not if we believe that in the beginning was the Word....
So we have to pay attention. Because whether we realize it or not, the way that our culture uses - and abuses - language strikes at the very heart of our faith as we know it. And we, the one people in the world who ought to know better, have to be ready and willing to stand up and say so.
We have to speak life, even in a culture of death, and give power back to the Word.