Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"Lingering Effects"

     In his Gettysburg Address, delivered 150 years ago yesterday, President Abraham Lincoln predicted that "the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here."  Nothing could be further from the truth, of course, as Lincoln's speech comprises one of the most well-known discourses in American history. 

    I often ponder things said to me or within my earshot that may have been uttered decades ago.  Like President Lincoln, the speaker likely didn't expect his or her utterance to linger in anyone's heart or mind.  For good or ill, however, words often imbed themselves in our consciousness, fostering effects that may last a lifetime - or  even an eternity.

    "Their word will eat as doth a canker" (II Timothy 2:17).
    "The Word of God... abideth forever" (I Peter 1:23).

    This consideration also gives pause to wonder about words I myself have uttered that may remain with people.  Certainly, as a preacher I hope that truths of God's Word I have spoken or written abide in the hearts of hearers to positive benefit.  However, I find it troubling to consider the other possibility.  Have I said things to people, either personally or corporately, that linger to their spiritual and emotional detriment?   Doubtless, the answer is yes, I have.  I suspect we all have, and the possibility should trouble us.  Far more, however, it should lead to contrition and to the prayer that God will mercifully minimize or eliminate the consequences of carelessness or willfulness regarding our words. 

     We often quote Solomon's warning/promise that "death and life are in the power of the tongue" (Proverbs 18:21).  Left to itself, there is no limit to the harm we can foist upon others by our words.  Conversely, submitted unto God with a trusting heart, our capacity to speak brings life, the risen life of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Both possibilities confirm that, more than we realize, people do take note, and they do remember the words we utter.  Little wonder that the Psalmist sought restraint - "Set a watch, o Lord, before my mouth.  Keep the door of my lips" - and the Apostle asked for liberty - "Pray... that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the Gospel" (Psalm 141:3; Ephesians 6:18; 19).  Yes, we kill or we give life with our words - and the effects linger.

There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health."
(Proverbs 12:18)

Weekly Memory Verse
     Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savor."
(Ephesians 5:1)

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