Since I posted this on Tuesday morning I’ve been thinking about a sermon or blog post about being very intentional when choosing our words. We are warned by James that the tongue is like a wild beast no man can tame, a small member that kindles a great fire. Jesus instructs all that minister to be wise as serpents but innocent as doves and Paul has some strict words of warning for those that would teach or preach the Gospel.
Modern doctors are not bound by the hippocratic oath but most of us are familiar, at least with the concept, of the promise physicians make to do no harm. Ministers and deacons are ordained into the service of ministry but what if we too had such an oath? We know that people are sometimes hurt by the church, broken by those called into ministry. What if not only pastors and deacons but all those who work in ministry, from nursery workers to youth pastors, secretaries to Sunday school teachers, took an oath of ministry? What if we publicly swore to a set of standards, similar to the oath taken by physicians to do no harm or that naturalized citizens swear to uphold and defend the Constitution?
I’m not suggesting we draft such a document and implement a swearing in service. But we do need to be intentional about choosing the words we use, and about the purpose of our words from everything to prayers and liturgy to making greetings and announcements. If we did take an oath it would force us to consider the importance of what we are doing. Our charge is to rightly divide the Word of Truth. Our worship is about more than entertainment or instilling values; we come together before Almighty God, maker of heaven and earth, and worship him. We enter his gates with thanksgiving and come into his courts with praise. We edify the body and share the Gospel.
Or at least we should. And in order to consistently do these things we need to pay attention and think about what we are doing. I am a church pastor on Sunday morning at 11 a.m. and when you meet me in Walmart. I am a born-again believer when the choir is singing and when the telephone rings while my family is eating dinner. We bear witness when we invite people to come to church and when they cut us off in heavy traffic. We need to plan ahead for these situations; We need to be intentionally and purposeful in our words and actions which often speak louder than words; we need to think about who we are and whose we are.