Psalms 84; 150, Jeremiah 1:1-10, 1 Corinthians 3:11-23, Mark 3:31-4:9
Consider these words from the Lord to the young prophet Jeremiah:
Now I have put my words in your mouth.
See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to pull down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.
Words, especially those inspired by (or attributed to) the Lord, are powerful. The right words can bring down nations and establish new ones. Jesus was crucified because Jewish leadership and the Roman empire both knew words are sparks that can ignite a revolution from seemingly nowhere; institutions that hide behind false words are tinder waiting to burn.
Healthy institutions welcome exchanges of words and ideas. Good ideas and true words do not need defending; they can withstand scrutiny and welcome constructive criticism. When governments and religions fear their people, they try to silence those people. Authoritarian governments and legalistic religions enforce silence through threats, imprisonment, and even death. Institutions which are less authoritarian (or wish us to believe they are not) may act more subtly yet still silence people through lies, legal action, and propaganda. The most malevolently skilled institutions get us to silence each other.
To the corrupt and fearful, the most truthful words are the most threatening. When Galileo persisted in advancing heliocentrism – the now undisputed theory that the earth revolves around the sun – the Catholic church put him under house arrest for the heresy of contradicting scripture. Under the Third Reich and the Cultural Revolution, artists and writers who expressed “unacceptable” ideas were arrested and executed. The words we hear – or are permitted to hear – shape our understanding of the world. Truth is often not in the best interest of the powerful, so they suppress it.
Don’t fear words and ideas. Don’t trust leaders who fear them. Instead, learn to listen critically so you can discern the good from the bad, the true from the false. If someone answers a question by saying you shouldn’t have asked it … ask again. Speak plainly and truthfully, and expect the same of others.
Jesus was the Word made flesh. All true words lead back to him.
Comfort: Truth is always from God.
Challenge: Not everything we think is true really is.
Prayer: God of truth, grant me the words to share your truth with others, and grant me ears to discern the good word from the bad. Amen.
Discussion: When is the last time someone spoke a truth that changed your worldview?
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