Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Christ and Culture, part 3: Communication in Scripture

When it comes to communication and scripture, the first place I would like to look is the account of creation. As strange as it may seem, this is perhaps the best place to start because it is the beginning. If I were to read Genesis 1, I would find very quickly that God did not create through an action (such as waving his hands a certain way), but rather He spoke and it was there ex nihilo, or “out of nothing”. God speaks, and things exist. In fact, just within chapter 1 of Genesis alone there are sixteen different places that consist of God speaking, three of which are places where He is speaking of or to humans (Genesis 1 ESV). When God speaks to humans He essentially tells them to go and create culture; what we would consider, perhaps, the perfect ideal culture of walking with God daily. Unfortunately, our words can be used for both good and bad, as is evidenced by the dialoge between Eve and the serpent. It was through words that Eve decided to eat fruit of the tree, and then to give some to her husband who was standing there with her (Genesis 3:1-7). Our words are indeed powerful things if they can lead to what would become the downfall of all of humankind.

Progressing from Genesis, one will find there are many verses about speech within Psalms. Verses that tell believers that their words should be pleasing to God (Psalm 19:14). In fact, Psalm 34:12-13 says this, “What man is there who desires life and love many days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit” (ESV). Who would have thought that the way we communicate could impact our way of life? It is obvious that God wants us to be careful with what we say, and when we say it; if He did not care what we communicated then much of scripture would not be necessary.

Proverbs also has a fair share of verses concerning our speech and actions. In Proverbs we learn that God hates perverted speech (Proverbs 8:13), that our words can bring healing or it can stir up problems (Proverbs 15:4), and perhaps the most well known passage is the one that says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). If one were to study the chapters of proverbs it would become apparent very quickly that God will honor certain types of speech, and that others are sinful. One would also discover that speaking whatever comes to mind is not the wisest thing to do. In fact, it would be wiser to not speak at all then to speak without putting thought behind what is being said. That is the very thought that is brought before the reader in Ecclesiastes 5:2-4, which states:

“Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes with much business, and a fool's voice with many words. When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow” (ESV).

I truly hope that the reader is beginning to see just how potent our words are, be they for good or for ill. We should certainly strive to be true to our word and do what we say, but we should also be careful in what we say so that we may not regret anything. For even Christ told us to let our “yes” mean yes, and our “no” mean no (Matthew 5:37 NIV).

There is one final passage that I would like to look at before moving on to who Christ really was so that we may have a fuller understanding of what the question of Christ and culture really is. The passage is in James 3:

“But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water” (James 3:8-12 ESV).

This passage is at the core of what James teaches about our words. Before this passage he compares the tongue to the bridle in a horses mouth, and a rudder to a large ship, stating that just as something so small and simple can guide the direction of an animal or large ship, so too can the tongue impact the way life goes. James even goes as far as to say that the tongue is much like a small spark of flame that can easily burn an entire forest to the ground if not kept in check (James 3:3-6).

This passage speaks out to me more than any of the other ones that I have presented thus far because it is perhaps the most direct passage, and I have frequently found this passage to be true of me, for though I love God, I do not always show it through my words and actions. This passage serves as a reminder to me, and I hope to all Christians, that we must be extremely careful with what we say because people are watching and listening all the time. That is why when Christians cry out against movies like The Golden Compass or books such as Harry Potter we are watched carefully and judged harshly. Indeed, there are times when I wish to not associate myself with Christianity because, for many people, it brings to many negative assumptions about who I am, and thus hurts my ability to share what is truly important, the love of Christ. Which brings us to the next point: Who was Christ?

Again, more thoughts to come as I continue the paper. Feel free to give your input, I'm just flushing out thoughts.

Grace and Peace.

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