The Power of Words

The Power of Words

Author: Lindsay O'Neal Lombardo
July 02, 2020

Test. Mask. Closed. Cancer. Racism. Infertility. Prayer. Pandemic. Family. Love.

Lately I have been thinking about the power of words. Each of the words above has been spoken into my world in just the last few months. My guess is that each one of us has some type of emotion or image that enters our mind as we read each of those words. Read them again, slowly, perhaps even aloud. Pause with each and feel that emotion or see that image.

Test. Mask. Closed. Cancer. Racism. Infertility. Prayer. Pandemic. Family. Love.

Which of those words made tears well up in your eyes? Which made you smile? Which caused your heart rate to increase? What did you see in your mind’s eye as you read that particular word?

Words are heavy and can have very different meaning depending on our life experiences. They can also have a varied impact depending on the current state of the world—the words “test” and “mask” for me have new meaning. My reaction to them today is not the same as the reaction I would have had six months ago.

Jesus knew the power of words.

“You are the light of the world”
(Matthew 5:14a, NIV).

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all…will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34, NIV).

“This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19, NIV).

These words of Jesus are beautiful and powerful and have emotional meaning. There is depth in each one.

Light. Command. Love. All. Given. Remembrance.

Some of the most powerful words of Jesus are known as the “Beatitudes.”

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called [children] of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3-10, NIV).

I re-read this passage the other day with a different lens and something struck me.

Jesus did not say, “Blessed are all.” He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…” As he did so often, he specifically named the marginalized and hurting.

We know that Jesus regularly addressed the widows, the poor, the sick.

Jesus continued to preach to everyone who was willing to listen, but his focus was on those who needed love, grace, compassion, and justice.

Jesus knew the power of words.

As I think about the power of words, I have to also think about how words can hurt.

I am unpacking words and phrases that have roots in racism.

I am considering the concept of micro-aggressions and how common phrases contribute to ongoing trauma for specific populations.

I am pausing to listen to the words of those whose life experiences are very different from mine.

I know the power of words. So I continue to ask myself two very important questions:
       Whose words do I most need to listen to right now regardless of my level of discomfort?
       And as a follower of Jesus, what words of healing rather than hurt do I need to be speaking into our communities?

Listen. Matter. Love. Lives. Grace.  Black. Blessed.

In addition to the words of Jesus, whose words do you most need to listen to right now? What words of healing do you need to speak into our community?


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