Loving Words

Those who love us do what is best for us, saying hard words and calling us out.
And yet, these loving words travel best when escorted by grace and kindness. 

Loving someone means I confront, call out, and name what I see in their life.  To stand by and let things go without a word is not love but something else.  So, if I am to love someone, I must speak the hard words.

And yet, these hard but loving words cannot be heard if said without grace and kindness.  Many are the words unreceived or misunderstood because of the harsh and graceless manner in which they are spoken.  Love misses its mark, is not received, simply because its words lack grace and kindness.

For words of instruction, correction, or truth spoken to our children, spouses, or friends in love and concern to actually land in their hearing, we must be aware that the route to their ear goes through their heart.  Grace and kindness are escorts that walk alongside our words to ensure that they are actually received as true gifts of love.

Words are not Enough

Formation is not easy work – it is the hard work.  It is much easier to merely tell a person what to do, than to walk alongside her, as she discovers why and how she is to act in a particular way or take certain actions.  Most of us need to see the doing lived out before our eyes, in order to know why this and not that is important.  But it is far easier to tell someone what to do, because talking to someone about right behavior and worthwhile action is less costly than walking with someone. Continue reading


We may see ourselves as free to say whatever we wish and to do whatever we want, but do we have the liberty to say and do any and everything?  Because we have the means and opportunity, this is not a reason to speak and act as we wish.  Freedom should not be seen as our license to say whatever is possible or do whatever our resources will allow.  Why?  Because we have been liberated.

Our liberation through Christ creates the possibility of actually speaking and acting in wholly different ways and toward ultimate ends.  It is because we have been liberated for divine purposes that our capacity to say and do whatever we wish has been tamed and is controlled by those purposes.  We have been liberated for more than our freedom of choice or unregulated acts but for something much grander.

As an example, consider the freedom most of us have to post, tweet, or blog.  Social media provides a wonderful opportunity to communicate and express ourselves, but it is equally an all-too-easy forum for us to scandalize, smear, and defame others, to trivialize and belittle sincere thoughts and opinions, or to grandstand and brag about what we do or who we know.  It provides a megaphone for gossip and thoughtless words that can inflict serious damage.  As people who have been set free from the scandal of our sin and the burden of our guilt, we are now to live toward higher words and for a different cause.  Because of our calling, we are to measure our words, to season what we say and do with grace and mercy, and to bear many things for the sake of love.

We have been liberated in order to live fully and to love freely.  For life, we have been liberated so that we might live beyond the trivializing and demoralizing effects of our society.  We have been liberated from the slavery of our self-obsession and narcissistic tendencies.  For love, we have been liberated so that we can speak and act in loving ways.  Yes, there are times when hard words need to be spoken to a brother, but these words are to be spoken to the brother in love and not as a broadcast to the world.

We who have been liberated by the Son are free indeed … for life and love.


Words, words, words – printed, written, typed, spoken, broadcasted – fill every crack and crease of life.  Like water that engulfs, words soak the fabric of our existence.  On the back of the cereal box, the morning paper, the radio, billboards, signs, books, smartphones, and screens – words fill our lives.  And into this sea of words, we add our own, compounding the din of commentary, opinions, descriptions, invitations, etc.  Rather than creating clarity, many times we just add to the noise.  Though we are free to speak and write, our free communication does not always promote understanding, nor does it produce solutions.  In our freedom to say, print, and text whatever we wish, we speak, write, and text too many words.  Quite possibly we need fewer words and more silence. Continue reading

What I say with my lips …

The following are my words to graduates at the commencement exercise at George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University on December 14, 2012.

Truett graduates, we congratulate you.  You made it!  Well done.  We are extremely proud to call you our graduates, and we anticipate that God will accomplish much in and through you as you serve Christ and his church in the years ahead.  Congratulations!

The teenage years can be hard.  Believe or not, I was once a teenager – many, many years ago.  And I raised several teenagers myself.  Teens can be hard – hard on parents, hard on the furniture, and hard of hearing.  As a teen, I remember being in turmoil – fighting with my brothers, resisting my parents, and pushing the boundaries.  And yet, in those difficult teenage years, in the midst of my fighting and in my search for boundaries, words came to me that arrested and challenged me.  I don’t remember who spoke them, or much of the context in which they were spoken.  But I do recall what I felt as I heard them and remember being struck by them – so much so, that I have held them in my memory all these years.  A speaker told the story of a French Huguenot evangelist, who was imprisoned for preaching his faith and then sentenced to be burned alive.  Tied to a stake, officials gave him one last chance to recant before lighting the wood at his feet.  He responded with these words – What I say with my lips, I seal with my life. Continue reading

Thoughtful Speech

A friend recently remarked that much of what is spoken these days falls into one of two categories; it is either combative and uncivil, or it is inane and trivial.  His observation is that people either state matters as incontestable fact when what they are saying cannot be proved or verified, or they understate in a rather casual, urbane manner that which should be said with conviction and fervor.  Since what is spoken in both cases seems to be without serious or careful consideration, my friend feels we must redouble our efforts to ensure that we measure our words, so that we speak to each other in a thoughtful manner.

My friend is absolutely correct for a number of reasons. Continue reading

You’ve got a Friend?

“Words,” said the Mad Hatter to Alice, “mean exactly whatever I say they mean.”

Life comes undone when the words used to explain and describe reality loose their mooring and float from place to place, meaning to meaning.  A confused Alice cannot make sense of the new reality of rabbits, cats and queens, especially when words point to their own contradictions – black becomes white, tall becomes short, up becomes down. Continue reading