Tuesday, August 07, 2007

One Saxon Morn' (Part II)

The following was originally told by radio commentator Paul Harvey in an installment of “The Rest of the Story”. (It has been liberally paraphrased for this post...)

Four journalists from Denver happened to meet while on assignment in China in the closing months of the Nineteenth Century. Over a few rounds of beer, the men concocted a story that would be sure to sell papers. In their story, the Chinese People had agreed to undertake a major project as an act of goodwill towards the west. China, the story went, would demolish their Great Wall as a gesture demonstrating their willingness to welcome the west into their ancestral lands. The story went to print and was treated as bunk back in the states. In China however, the story caught the attention of a secretive band of ultranationalists who were already plenty pissed off about the barbarians in their ancient lands. The group, known for their prowess in the martial arts, wouldn’t let this outrage go unanswered.

This seemingly preposterous story was the match that ignited the Boxer Rebellion, a bloodbath that took the lives of countless Chinese followers of Christ, along with numerous Christian Missionaries.

I’m not yet sure why, but I’ve been thinking about “words” for the last week or so. In the past year, I’ve become very sensitive to my own speech, and the words of others, and the various effects these words may have on their hearers. Add to this the fact that in our present age, we rely heavily on written digital communications. In this our e-mails, text messages, et al add to the sum of our communicated language. Our language and our words have the potential to either comfort or cull. And with that, our tongues have the potential to be either salve or a scythe to those who hear or read our words.

How many times have our words, whether written or spoken, hit another like a wrecking ball? Have verbal asides or terse e-mails left others wounded in their wake? Or how often have we, when wounded by words, returned withering words in the direction of our offender?

James, the stepbrother of our Savior spilled a good deal of ink concerning the tongue in his relatively short epistle. If words are arrows, then the tongue is the crossbow that launches them. He rhetorically observes that the same tongue that that lifts gentle blessings is capable of firing lethal salvos of curses. And in his plainspoken way, he reminds his readers that this shouldn’t happen.

Possessing a machete tongue may be typical, but it certainly shouldn’t be normal for followers of the way.

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