Will the real Barack Obama or the real Mitt Romney please stand up? I’m not sure I know who they are from all the things I’ve heard about them. American or non American? Patriot or Trai-tor? ‘Good’ for the country or ‘bad’ for the country? Does the label ‘Democrat’ or ‘Republican’ tell me the full story or even get close? Even after the election, the discussion continues and to a degree I’m none the wiser. I’m concerned that a lot of public discourse – it happens in Aus-tralia, here in the UK, and the United States isn’t immune – nor most of the world – seems to quickly go to extremes in describing those we support and oppose. It seems to me that we’ve lost the concept that those we support aren’t ‘gods’ and those with whom we disagree aren’t ‘devils’. Democracy thrives on difference of opinion, divergent thinking, and usually compromise but that doesn’t make people with whom we disagree the enemy. Political uniformity often comes up at the expense of democracy.
This week the Church of England announced the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury, the bishop of Dur-ham, The Right Rev. Justin Welby. Who is he? Con-servative? Progressive? Immediately people look for things he has said or done to give an indication of the type of Archbishop he will be. It is said that he isn’t in favour of same sex marriages but is in favour of women bishops. Married. Father of six children. Bereaved father (Welby’s 7 month old daughter died in a car crash). Former oil executive. Etonian. None of it of course tells the full story even if some in the Anglican Communion are already wringing their hands while others are rejoicing.
What about Jesus? Surely he is well known? Sadly, not really, I think. If he is acknowledged to have existed then he’s invariably regarded as a ‘nice guy’. But whether he’s God? Well, only his followers believe that and they amount to about one in three people on the planet. The rest – if they think he existed – seem to relegate him to moral teacher or a good example. Only his cross and his empty tomb present us with the full story. But that takes more words.
A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver (Proverbs 25:11 ESV).
Have you heard of George Ellard and Percy Withers? I’d be surprised you had! The words associated with them are ‘Remembered with honour’. They were 17 and 18 years old Royal Air Force Volunteers Reserve who are buried in the Commonwealth War Graves in Beck Row. Even when the words are few it is important to remember them. Even when the guns are silent all that we have left are words.
Maybe they are too many words today. Or maybe it is just that we have quantity rather than quality. Words are powerful. Even our words. (Just imagine how powerful God’s words are!) We can use words to create and build or destroy and kill. Use with care! Beware the slogans, summaries, and sound bytes. Speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) is our way of growing in Christ. It is also a very good way of promoting peace and justice as well. –GS