A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

You Are What You Speak... Even in Politics

 No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.--Luke 6:43-45

We have some idioms in our culture that reflect the importance of actions-- "Actions speak louder than words" and "Talk is cheap," Such adages speak of the importance of actually doing what we say we will do and not just talk about it. These sayings do not minimize the importance of words; they highlight the significance of action.

We have other sayings that draw attention to the importance of words-- people can "talk down" to us or they can "speak over" our heads. When we utter such things we are affirming not only the importance of tone when speaking, but the significance of the very words themselves. There is another old adage in reference to words, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." Whoever came up with that saying either had a cast-iron skin or was simply trying to deflect from how much the words of others had indeed hurt. We know that words can hurt. In fact, people who suffer years of verbal abuse can be hurt almost beyond repair. Words matter. What we say matters.

Jesus also believed that the words human beings uttered mattered-- "it is out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." New Testament scholar, Tom Wright, translates Luke 6:45, "What comes out of the mouth is what's overflowing in the heart." The words we speak are windows into the human heart. What we say in a moment of anger or frustration reveals something about us, whether we like it or not. All of us at times have said things we wished we could take back. No one is immune from "foot-in-mouth" disease. The problem with such moments is not that we say things we don't mean; we say them precisely because we meant it. We might apologize to the one we've offended telling them we didn't mean it, but that's not true. Unless we were intentionally lying through our teeth, what was uttered was sincere. The transgression was not that we lied, but that we didn't keep our thoughts to ourselves.

When someone makes public comments that insult people that disparage women and minorities and make fun of the way people look, he is not simply being a loudmouth, he is revealing what he truly believes, who he truly is. What comes out of the mouth is what's overflowing in the heart. Words matter in all contexts including politics; and we should not excuse the rough-and-tumble of political debate and campaigning as an excuse to give someone a pass for a continued practice of egregious and insulting comments pretending as if words ultimately are trivial. We don't treat them that way when they are directed against us, and neither should we do so when they are spoken about others.

I am not suggesting that forgiveness is impossible, but it is difficult to reconcile with those who don't believe they have said anything that requires forgiveness. As Christians we should be more than ready and willing to forgive, but simply writing off what we and others say because "they are just words" rejects the great importance Jesus and the biblical writers placed on what is spoken. In Genesis 1, creation came into existence by the spoken word and in John 1, Jesus himself is referred to as the Word. What we say is not a collection of irrelevant sounds, but meaningful expressions of who we are and what we believe.

"What comes out of the mouth is what's overflowing in the heart"-- timely wisdom from Jesus indeed.

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