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Words and Power

My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. James 3:1

Jesus ate with the Pharisees, read their minds, and blew them up for their thoughts. Nowadays we talk about the Pharisees and what they did, and how bad they made people feel. But shouldn’t we also look at how we make people feel? Are we doing the same thing as the Pharisees? And when we do, why do we do it? Do we need it to feel better about ourselves?

“I’m a pastor so you have to listen to me.” Have you ever heard a pastor speak some version of that? And when they do that, why do they do it? Is it a power thing?

If you’re called to be a pastor, I believe that means you are given wisdom, and that you are called to share it. And I genuinely believe that most pastors are very sincere about their calling. But I worry when I hear a pastor say, “I was praying the other day, and God told me to talk to you about this.” When he says that, he is basically telling people, “This is what God said.” Now he can say whatever he wants, and most people in his congregation will say, “Amen! I guess I’ve got to do it then.” That isn’t always the case.

The apostles didn’t even do that. You’d think if anyone could tell people, “This is what God says you should do,” it would be the apostles! But they didn’t do that. Think about what happened in Acts, when the church was having a big fight over the question of circumcision. They gathered in council, and when they communicated their decision, they said, “It seems good to us, and it seems good to the Holy Spirit, that what matters is a circumcision of the heart, not of the flesh.” The meaning here is important. They didn’t say, “Look, God came down and said to us, ‘This is what you need to do.’ No doubt about it.” They just said, “It seems like the Spirit was okay with our thought process on this.” That’s a pure message. That’s the wisdom pastors are given and called to share.

It’s a good thing to see a pastor say, “Hey, through what I’m seeing, and what I’ve read, and how I’ve been praying, I feel like the Spirit has given me peace by thinking this way. You need to pray about this too.” It’s a good thing to see a pastor say, “Pray about my message.” Or, “Hey, think about these things and see if it’s good to you with the Spirit.” But you don’t always hear that.

check out the lectionary comic strip at http://www.agnusday.org/

James said teachers will be judged more strictly. I think it’s because of the power they have. Words have power. We should pay more attention to the words in red. You know, Jesus. We should focus on His words, because those are the actual words of God. Not the inspired words of God, but the actual words of the Almighty God. Jesus carried these words. He spoke them into play. They are the most powerful words in the history of words, period. His words. You can read them over and over again, and feel good every time. Because you’re like, “Man! The actual words of God!”

Madison Bumgarner, another pitcher on my team, is reading the Gospel of Mark, so I decided to read it with him. Just the other day I read Mark 9. It was just so good. I’m reading it via the Message Bible right now, because sometimes I’m struck fresh by the words because of how the message is written. The last part of the chapter said that we’re going to be “preservatives” in this world. We are to preserve peace. And that meant so much to me. I’d never read it like that that before. “Preserve peace.”

Are we doing that as believers? What does that look like? More on this next time. See you Wednesday.

3 thoughts on “Words and Power

  1. Darn it Jeremy! I don’t want to like you, I’m a Phillies fan 🙂

    But seriously, the words that you have said here is a huge issue for me lately. Someone I trust and love greatly has recently become a lot more “This is the way it is.” I have watched him move from the compassion and “food for thought” mindset to this current one.
    I miss the food for thought.

    He is a very bright man and does love God with all he is, but has lost the compassionate piece that lets him understand that some people need more processing time and that they might not agree with his idea.

  2. Good words, Jeremy. I’ve been reading through James with one of our pastors and I have to laugh at the comic you posted – because so much can be done, both good and bad with the things we say. Having preached a handful of sermons in my life and leading some small groups, I try to be conscious of the things I say – because I pray that what I say in those contexts are in alignment with Christ’s teachings. That’s why it’s so important for all of us to read Scripture for ourselves and wrestle with it – that’s a key component of how we grow in Christ.

    • Your comment really speaks to me. I’ve been puzzling over ways to teach remedial writing skills to incoming college freshman, and that got me thinking about my childhood, when I would patiently and repeatedly copy sentences by hand into notebooks. That was such an excellent activity. It tuned my ear to the sounds of English.

      In turn, that made me think about the medieval monks who made illuminated manuscripts. How that must have tuned their ears to the sounds of the Spirit! I think about those manuscripts in which monks, overcome by love, would embellish the text with pictures and notations. I visited the Book of Kells in Dublin a couple of years ago, and that alone exposed me to such a profound sense of holiness. I want to be overcome by His love!

      I got the idea to make my own illuminated manuscript of the Bible. What will I learn of Christ’s teachings when I copy them by hand? I’ve started with Genesis and Luke. So far, I haven’t decorated anything, but these enormously familiar words are suddenly so strange and beautiful to me.

      I’d also like to memorize all the words of Jesus — a challenge given to me by my uncle. I don’t know if my brain will play along, but if my uncle could do it at 75, then the brain’s age should not matter!

      Jeremy’s talking about something so special here. I think anything I could say about God’s words would be too small. But I know that I want to push my own words aside, so that His will sink in and remake me from the inside out. How will I know when I understand? When it seems good. When through those words, I know peace and love. Not my itty bitty peace and love, but His peace and love.

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