One of the greatest fallacies children learn is the phrase: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Yes, at any time within our lives sticks and stones may break our bones, but the truth is that at some point, without any doubt, words will hurt us — if not destroy us.
The power of human words can be a blessing in our lives, but also they carry the great ability to cause massive destruction. We as adults must be aware of this ability to cause wounds from words, and also the many issues that can arise from each of our word choices. The words of church leaders are particularly given weight and authority. A few careless words can rip away the beliefs of a person.
We may think we are being understanding and accepting of all people, all races, all religions, all genders, and sexual orientations, but through our word choices we sometimes do quite the opposite of what we intend. Unknowingly (and sometimes knowingly) we may create a condemning God through our language.
Simple words can cause great pain, and we as people often use these simple words to make people feel less about themselves. We must take a stand to be sure that our words and language are used to include all people. Our words can in fact make someone feel as though they are separated from the love of God when God always intends to include us all in Christ Jesus.
A young man from North Dakota a few years ago came out to his family as gay. After the initial shock they asked him to go speak with his Lutheran pastor. The young man told his pastor whose actions and words would be something that would haunt this young man for years. He was told that he would no longer be welcome by many members of the congregation and his homosexuality would cause a great stir among the people. The pastor thought it would be best to ask this young Christian man to leave the congregation he had always called home. Following these harsh actions and words, the title of Christian was no longer something this man associated himself with because his pastor created a condemning and unwelcoming God for him. In a few short sentences, this man was ripped of his entire beliefs of the loving and accepting God he had always known, simply because of the words his pastor spoke.
“Sticks and stone may break my bones, but words, they can destroy.”
We are the speakers of a loving God, a God who calls us to ministry to be faithful servants of God’s message, and servants of a God who gathers us around a table of bread and wine to taste and see that through the cross we are forgiven and equal. In this equality we are continually uplifted and reminded that we are beautiful children of a loving, peaceful, and accepting God, whose words build up rather than destroy.