What Do our Words Create?

It’s been interesting to read people’s opinion on young adults (people my age) lately.  It seems that there are several blogs out there that purport to have an opinion about young adults.  For example, Don Miller calls young adults delusional in one of his blog posts.

Lately also I have been studying the book of 1 Corinthians. I have always seen Paul as sort of a model for all-out straight-to-your-face challenging talk. Paul does not mince words, he does not seem to care whether he offends people or not. However, while in class studying 1 Corinthians, I learned something new. Paul is way more pastoral than I give him credit for. He actually chooses his words carefully.  For example after a lengthy tirade that to our eyes seems to be so offensive he writes this:

I am not writing this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you might have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers. Indeed, in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. I appeal to you, then, be imitators of me… 1 Corinthians 4:14-16

What struck me is that Paul is calling himself a father to this church. Yes, he has said some tough things, but then in the middle of all of this, he takes some time to explain why.  He does not do it to make them ashamed. Indeed, throughout all of his letter, the one theme that comes through is his desire to build up and for the church to build up others.

Case in point: The church in Corinth has leadership issues. People are following different pastors and teachers and become prideful about it. The way these teachers react is even worse, they become puffed up, prideful, talk “smack” about each other.  Think about it as a Marc Driscoll vs. Rob Bell kind of situation.

It has often been thought that Paul participates in kind and talks about Apollos (one of the preachers) calling him out as one the  church should not follow.  But, in chapter 4 he writes: “I have applied all this to Apollos and myself for your benefit… so that you may learn through us… so that none of you will be puffed up in favor of one against another.” 1 Corinthians 4:6. Many scholars today think that Paul and Apollos were friends, and Paul used a friend to make a point.  He could have called people out… But he doesn’t. He gives an example (some will even translate “I have applied” as “I have disguised”) with someone who won’t be offended and then uses it as learning moment. Far from mentioning names, he expects the Corinthians to figure this out by themselves.

I get that working with young adults can be frustrating. I am one of them and for the last three years I spent a major part of my time living 18-20 year old. Yes, it is hard sometimes.  Yes it is a growing stage. And yes, maybe Don Miller and others have a point at time.  But consider today, whether what we say and write is written to build up or whether it is written out of cynicism and frustration. Consider also, whether our word have not more power than we think.

Do our comments, whether they be bad or negative call forth a certain behaviour? What if our complaints become self-fulfilling prophecies? Do our words create opportunities… do they build up?  Or do our words limit and destroy?

Perhaps this sounds critical of others. I want to clarify… I suck at this! But Paul has reminded me that there is value not only in challenging, not only in confronting, not only in being critical. The challenge I throw out here is a challenge to myself.  I want my words to create opportunities, to build up, to speak forth new things.  I invite you to hold me accountable!


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