It is easy to discount the importance of our words, but in reality they shape the world around us. Through this week’s study of Ecclesiastes 7:21-22, the Preacher discusses the concept of critique and the power of our words. As Christians, our place is to step out in risk. The two reactions to stepping out in risk and disrupting the normal environment are to either to embrace God at work in the new situation or criticize and pelt stones.
This impulse of criticism that occurs is the act of discounting the divine in another and creates a new definition that God never intended his creation to carry. We were encouraged to use our words to affirm the divine from within the listener and avoid the traps of cynicism and judgment instead of embracing the unfamiliar.
The power of criticism is illustrated in the life of David in 2 Samuel 16:4-14. Running from his son Absalom, David finds himself an exiled king. It is during this low point that Shimei, from the house of David’s predecessor Saul, begins to hurl stones, dirt and curses at David and his men. David’s response is one of utter resolve: he stops his men from killing Shimei lest it is the voice of God. However, David and his men find themselves completely exhausted at the end of their trip. The result of criticism is exhaustion: it is tiring when people disregard the image of God in another.
A few chapters later in 2 Samuel 19:16-23, David’s son has been killed and he starts his triumphant return back to Jerusalem. It is during this trip back that Shimei comes to beg for forgiveness, and on the surface, it looks like David gives it. He assures Shimei that he will not kill him, yet with his dying breath he instructs Solomon to make sure Shimei’s death is a bloody one in 1 Kings 2:8-10.
David’s life had the illusion of forgiveness and restoration, but ended in bitterness. In Christ’s life we find the ultimate example of embracing creation and dying to love others. Are we willing to sep out in boldness and risk to embrace, affirm and reconcile God’s creation, or will we fear criticism and end our days in bitterness at the words of others? It is the duty of Christians to love and use our words to affirm the stamp of the divine in our listeners, but that takes risk. The task of bold reconciliation can mean subjecting ourselves to vulnerability and the possibility of opening ourselves up to other’s critique. Yet, it is a life of blessing and that is what we are called by God to: bravery, boldness and risk.
- Kayly Watson