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The Weight of Words

“I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” 

- 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. - James 3:1-2


Did you ever see the movie “Footloose,” starring Kevin Bacon and John Lithgow? I’m not talking about the remake. Most remakes, in my opinion, are uncreative, forced, and unnecessary. If you haven’t seen it, it stars Kevin Bacon as a teenager (it was made THAT long ago), who moves to a town where dancing, and other things, are prohibited. And this wasn’t due to a biblical reason, but it was because some kids a few years prior, including the minister’s (Lithgow) son were killed in a car accident after a school dance.


Oddly, I woke up this morning thinking about it. Particularly the scene where some of John Lithgow’s congregants are outside of the school library attempting to burn some books they don’t particularly like. The minister had said some things in opposition to poor behavior that the congregants ran with and he had to go and put a stop to it. His intention was never to stir people to that sort of action, but to repentance. He even asked them where it stops, asking them who appointed them to sit in judgement on anyone or anything, and telling them that Satan was not in the books they were burning, but in their hearts. He then said to go home and sit in judgement on themselves. (you can watch that scene here: That scene has me thinking about the weight of my words, as a Christian, a husband, a father, and a preacher.


Sometimes, Christian, we can do the same thing, can’t we? On issues where the Bible does not prohibit things, we can sit in judgement on people who partake. Or we can take an inch and go a mile. The purpose of the Gospel message is to get men to examine their own hearts, repent, and turn to Christ, not to go out and crusade against the world. Our role isn’t to speak prohibitively, but to point out that our rebellion against God, our sin, keeps us from His purpose and blessings for us (not, necessarily, monetary or material), and leads us to death.  The world will do as it will. It isn’t for us to sit in condemnation. All we can do is warn people to flee the wrath that is coming, and point them to the nail-scarred hands of Christ for shelter. Our words hold weight. What we teach holds weight. We should consider the weight of that sacred responsibility, and point people toward the righteousness of Christ.


Luke 3:1-22


In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,


“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:

‘Prepare the way of the Lord,

make his paths straight.

Every valley shall be filled,

and every mountain and hill shall be made low,

and the crooked shall become straight,

and the rough places shall become level ways,

and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”


He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”


And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”


As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”


So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people. But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison.


Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”


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