Words hold a unique power to give life and to take it away. It is no minor detail that the Christian story begins with a God who speaks.
In the beginning, God spoke the earth into existence, piece by piece. First, he formed the stuff of life, in the old theologian’s terms, ex nihilo, that is, out of nothing. When there was nothing, so the story goes, God spoke and stuff appeared. This in itself is a staggering concept and one that has understandably cause many thinkers over the years to turn up their dignified noses at the starting point.
Then the story continues with God making everything from daylight to deserts. Last of all, he speaks and man and woman appear, in his image, in his likeness. Our history had begun with words.
And just as it began with words, history has developed through words. Simple words. Understandable verbs, nouns, adjectives and adverbs have changed the course of history.
Do not eat the fruit of the tree of good and evil or you will die.
You will not surely die.
The land will be cursed. Relationships will be cursed. Childbearing will bring pain. The ground will bring thorns. The serpents’ head will be crushed by the seed of the woman.
Then the prophets came with words, some accompanied by pictures as unforgettable as a grown man eating cow-dung or a holy man marrying (and remarrying) a prostitute, but each of the prophets spoke thus says the Lord. He spoke through our unwillingness to listen. He spoke a simple word: repent.
He spoke the same word through John the Baptizer. But with Jesus, God wraps up all communication into a single word, although we had heard whispers of it before. He spoke the simple words I am with you. I am for you.
This is the same message he speaks to us today, in the simplest of terms. That is the beauty of simple words, you cannot argue with them because they bring the truth into stark contrast. It is our pleasure as the people of God to speak the greatest of truths in the simplest of terms to those around us.
The message is that we love because we are loved. And just like the prophets, we are given an opportunity to marry our words with pictures. As you go through this week, what pictures will accompany your simple words?