Friday, September 22, 2017

Words are Violent.

Words are Violent.

I recently read an article in which Conservative pundit Ben Shapiro listed things that he had learned after having spoken at Cal-Berkeley. Many of the students and surrounding community came in force against him being invited to speak at the University. Shapiro, an Orthodox Jewish man, was called a nazi, a “supposed jew”, a white supremacist, and a racist. In response to some of these statements and others, particularly ones about microaggressions and speech being violent, Shapiro said in response “No, Speech isn’t violence.”1 In one sense I agree with him, and in another I wonder if the attitudes of both sides aren’t dismissive. I agree with the sentiment that is intended, that being that the students and protesters shouldn’t seek to shut down speech just because they disagree with it, but I also thought about the scriptures that talk about the power of words.

The book of Proverbs has a lot to say about speech. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” (Prov 18:21) The power of speech is such that it can either be life or death to the hearer. A person who uses his words to convey things that are worthy of being talked about will find that his words bring comfort to those around him. In the New Testament we are told in numerous places to build others up by the power of our speech. “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Eph 4:29)

Our speech is to be tempered so that it builds up rather than tearing down. That isn’t to say that we aren’t supposed to be harsh or strong in our words. Exactly the opposite is true, and sometimes we can’t help but offend the person to whom we are speaking. The bible says, after all, that the Christian and his message is; “to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things?” (2Cor 2:16). Likewise Paul tells us that the Gospel is something that the unbelieving world does not want to hear. "but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1Cor 1:23).

We as Christians bring a message of life and of death, our words can bring hope or despair by the very offensive nature of the Gospel. We should not however add to that offense by using unwholesome speech. In fact we are commanded to “ prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1Pet 3:15) Our speech is to bear the characteristic of gentleness, we are to say hard things but with a measure of grace. Our speech isn’t to be hard for the sake of being hard but instead it is to be hard for the sake of love.

So when we see those in our culture that are speaking harshly for the sake of being harsh, (I am not necessarily speaking of Mr. Shapiro) we ought to think twice when we champion them for their offensive natures. After all the truth is offensive enough without being expressed by an untamed tongue.


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