When My Words Become My Sword, I’ve Got to Slow Down.

Perhaps one of the worst side effects of the social media epidemic is the incessant need to respond to things right away. You’ve got the platform, might as well do it, right?

Oh I’ve done that. Even on this blog. I’ve attempted to respond to things as quickly as possible, all the while thinking that I’m “thinking deeper” and “being wise” with what I’m doing and saying. I’ve got to defend this, explain that.

And it often turns out to be a mess.

I was reading through John 18 this morning. It starts with Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. Judas Iscariot comes and Jesus prepares to turn Himself in. Verse 10: “Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)

I was struck with the imagery, and I think it speaks directly to how we speak nowadays, particularly on social media, in response to world events or to what people are saying. I think there’s a direct parallel we can make.

We are Peter. We are just doing our thing, following Jesus, and then somebody does something that goes against Jesus in some way, or they post something that goes against how we believe, what we think, even what we know to be true.

We have a sword. I don’t know exactly why Peter had a sword – perhaps it was a cultural thing. But he had it, and when his way of thinking, his way of life, his Jesus, was threatened, his gut reaction was to use it. So often we get defensive when Christ is mocked or our favorite political candidate is disparaged or somebody says something that seems hypocritical. And we “have to have” a response.

(Also, fun fact: put the “s” in “words” at the beginning of the word, and you have “sword.” Coincidence? Probably. But still…)

So we attack. We cut off their ear. At least, we try. We argue back, we make our point, we have to have the last word. We call it “standing up for Christ” or “defending Jesus.”

But is this really what Jesus would desire for us? Jesus didn’t praise Peter for his “defense” of the Son of God. In fact, He told Him to put his sword away.

I know this isn’t a perfect parallel, but I think we can learn something from Jesus asking Peter to show restraint. I can learn so much too.

So often we like to be quick in our response to things, to make sure we have our two cents in, but how often does that make us look foolish? It sure makes me look foolish. Some of the posts on this blog in the last couple months have probably made me look really silly. We may think through the logical side of what we say, the argument, the debating points, but do we think through how we reflect God or how we love others?

I think there’s a big difference between this and what Peter covered later himself in 1 Peter 3:15-16:

…in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

We must be prepared to make a defense for the hope that is in us, and even then do it with gentleness and respect. Gentleness and respect, I’m afraid, is missing from a lot of my interactions on social media, particularly when it comes to “standing up for Jesus” or “defending my position.” I’ve got to get my word in! And am I truly defending the hope in me, or am I just trying to make a point that probably doesn’t need to be made?

Ask yourself: when you “defend the faith” on social media, is it as Peter directs us to? Is it with a Gospel grace to the person with whom you’re “discussing” things? Are we loving one another? Or are we drawing the sword way too quickly and using it way too rashly?

I don’t know the appropriate way to “defend Jesus” in this. But I’m confident no one will be won over to Christ through our well-thought-out and smart arguments on Facebook. God can make it happen, for sure, He’s done far crazier.

But I can’t help but think I can spend my time doing things so much better than that.

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Love Means Backing Up What You Say (Even When You Screw Up)

I couldn’t tell you what the accurate statistics on divorce are, and I could post a bunch of links to studies that show different numbers on divorce in America, divorce in the church, divorce of this kind of couple or this kind.

I could just tell you that people say “till death do us part” and then don’t do that.

Maybe that will make my point. People swear love and faith and truth to one another on their wedding day and a certain number end up quitting for a number of reasons.Love-Fire

Then there’s the other side. The group that doesn’t commit to marriage because they’re scared of that level of commitment. What if I want to back out?, they ask. What if it gets hard? I admit that I find myself in that group sometimes.

I’ve been doing a study on love the last few days. And among the many things I’ve learned is that love isn’t about saying the right things or having the right emotional feelings. It’s about doing what you say you’re going to do.

1 John is stocked with nuggets of jumbo truth about what love is, what love looks like, what love means, etc. I want to key in on two verses in particular.

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“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” – 1 John 3:18

John’s emphasis is on love being the action and not just the words. It’s really easy to love in words. It’s really easy to say the right things. It’s really easy for me to say to my brother, “Hey, I love you and I’ll always be there for you.” It’s really easy for me to say to my friends, “Hey, I love you guys and I’ll always be there for you.”

Thing is, they’re words. In the long run, they’re empty. In his spoken word “Refuge” on Alex Faith’s album ATLast, Christian rapper Odd Thomas says, “I need more than just words. I need God’s words. God’s word is the only word that brings me refuge.” He’s saying, in light of the words of God, our words are sometimes meaningless, oftentimes offered as a well-intentioned platitude during which people might mean well but have no real intention or discipline of trying to follow it up.

Unfortunately, I find myself saying those kinds of things often. God’s words are really the only words that have any lasting effect.

That’s not to dull the power of our tongue. Proverbs 18:21 notably says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” We can encourage or bring down with our words.

But John’s trying to saying our love is most notable in our actions. He gives an example.

“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” – 1 John 4:20

John gives the example of someone who says he loves God but then hates another, calling him a liar. He’s saying his words are false and mean little. I think he’s taking it more in the direction of “how can you love something you haven’t seen if you can’t love something/someone you have seen?,” and that makes sense.

But this is an example of someone who says one thing and then acts out another. That’s not love. When the couples who stand on the altar pledge “till death do us part” and then part a few years later, they haven’t kept their word. They promised one thing and then acted out another.

When I tell my brother, “Hey man, I love you, I’ll pray for you,” and then I don’t pray for him, have I really loved him? Have I really?

When I don’t tell my friend that I think he’s in sin and doesn’t see it, even though that’s what I want to do and have told him I will do, have I really loved him? Have I really?

If I say I love God, but disobey one of His commands, have I really loved Him? Have I really?

No.

What a wretched man I am. Who can save me from this body of death?

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But praise God that we have an example in Christ. Not only is it an example, it’s the hope we have when we fall short of displaying true love.

“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” – 1 John 4:9-10

God’s love is best displayed in His sending of Christ to earth to die to give us life. It was something He said and then it was something He did.

Said:

  • “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Judah…For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” – Jeremiah 31:31,34b
  • “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” – Luke 19:10

Done:

  • “When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” – John 19:30
  • “In (Jesus) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us…” – Ephesians 1:7-8a

Love is saying something, then doing it. It’s words that turn into action. Sometimes love doesn’t need words, but the most powerful example of love we’ve ever seen was something that was said and then done, accomplished by the God-man Himself, Jesus Christ. God’s the perfect example, once again.

Because of that love, I’m forgiven whenever I fail at loving others. But I’m also given the grace to get back up and try again. Let that sink in. Just think about it for a second. When (not if) we fail, if we’re in Christ, we’re forgiven and that’s not held against us. We’re forgiven so we can try again.

Whether it’s loving God or loving my wife (in the future) or my brother or my co-worker or my pastor or whoever, love is a word that requires some action. It’s a word that turns into an action. It’s saying you will do it/are that/are working to grow in that and then doing it.

God did it. Thank Him that He did.