I make my living with words.
Nearly everything I do involves words. From praying, preaching, teaching, and writing to counseling, consoling, and confronting — I work with words all day long.
This is probably the reason my hobbies tend to be solo adventures. When I get some time away, the last thing I want to do is deal with more words. My chainsaw is one of my favorite toys. When people ask me why I enjoy it so much, my response is always the same, “When my chainsaw is running, I can’t even hear the voices in my head.”
As a professional wordsmith, I find myself constantly haunted by a pithy little verse found in Proverbs 10:19. Here it is in several versions:
The Living Bible – Don’t talk so much. You keep putting your foot in your mouth. Be sensible and turn off the flow!
The Message: The more talk, the less truth; the wise measure their words.
New International Version: Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.
King James Version – In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.
The Good News Version: The more you talk, the more likely you are to sin. If you are wise, you will keep quiet.
International Children’s Bible: If you talk a lot, you are sure to sin. If you are wise, you will keep quiet.
New Living Translation: Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.
The Berean Bible: When words are many, sin is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise.
Today, denominations and churches are being driven apart by words — lots and lots of words. It’s all over the news, and it’s really ugly and unbecoming for the followers of Jesus.
The current topic of debate and division is irrelevant. Why? Because the Christian world always has some hot topic to debate — and some group of people to castigate. We can’t help ourselves because we are driven by pride. Our arrogance forces us to prove we are right. To do so, we use words. Lots and lots of words. The more we talk, the more we sin. It’s an awful mess.
I’m certain that many of you find yourselves caught in the middle as your denomination and/or local church fights over who is right — who is wrong — and who is to blame.
I’m feeling caught in the middle too. The longer the fighting goes on and the more words we use, the more sins of pride and arrogance we commit.
I have purposely stayed out of this most recent hot-topic debate. I have written no articles on the topic, and I have preached no direct sermons on the topic. Why?
Because we believers have more important things to do — and the most important of all is unity. Of all the values Jesus wanted for and from His Church, none are more important than unity. If you don’t believe me, then read John 17:20-23 at least five times in a row today. On second thought, keep reading it until the divine value of unity fully sinks into your heart and mind. Unity in the Church is the divine pre-requisite to success in the mission of God. Did you hear that?
Church, without unity, we fail. It’s as simple as that.
Let’s listen in as Jesus prays for us:
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
The divine unity of believers is how the world will know God sent Jesus into the world – and that He loves them.
Unity. And yes, love. Jesus said, “By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” John 13:35. Unity and love go hand in hand.
Instead of unity and love, today’s Church world is caught up in angry words and partisanship.
This is why many of us are caught in the middle. The extreme positions in our denominations and churches are demanding that we choose their side. To convince us, they craft lengthy theological statements and position papers designed to prove who is right and who is wrong and who is to blame: words, words, words — and more words.
If I were in charge of the world, I would declare a church-wide moratorium regarding debate on today’s hot topic. During the moratorium, I would suggest we take all of the time and energy we are saving by keeping our mouths shut and then use all that time and energy to love and serve the precious people we’ve been talking endlessly about. The quiet would be holy — and the flow of unity, love, and grace would be miraculous.
If you agree, then stop talking about those hot-topic, people. Instead, go find some of them to love and serve.
That’s all I have to say about that.