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Usha and Mercy
Kisumu - Kenya

IN HIS FOOTSTEPS

NO 7 June 2006
Scripture reading: 1 Corinthians 12: 12- 26

WORDS THAT BUILD A COMMUNITY
INTRODUCTION

The two communities that most of us are closely connected with and spend most time in are the ones we live in, and the ones we work in. The people in these two communities should be the ones who should comfort, strengthen and inspire us to be better people, but sadly these are the very people who often tear us down and make life unbearable for us sometimes, by the words they speak to us.

The words we sometimes speak to each other are harsh, cold and violent. They are like a slap in the face. When we use such words, they leave others feeling anxious, frightened and insecure. In their insecurity, people often use cruel words themselves and a cycle of ugliness continues. Sometimes we use words that are false and deceitful. Such words undermine the truth and lead to misunderstandings that are hard to put right again. Words of blame and injustice, words spoken in anger and frustration have consequences too. They destroy the harmony and good relationships within the family and the work place.

Everyday, we have many opportunities to say kind, comforting words. Our words can encourage a colleague who is having a bad time with the boss, or at home. They can help someone make the right decision. The can bring healing and forgiveness. They can remove fear, and anxiety, and bring peace. Such words are “building” words. They heal, unite, and make us love one another more. Apart from words, the tone in which we speak is also important. Even if the words are not unkind, the tone in which they are said can be hurtful. So we need to pay attention not only to the words we use, but also to the tone in which we speak.

Our scripture reading today deals with the tongue – the strongest muscle in our body. We use our tongue to both praise God, and curse those who are closest to us. Is this right?

LISTEN WITH YOUR HEART

Today in most hospitals, patients are given only a few minutes to consult with a doctor. Words are spoken hurriedly in a tone that does not encourage or build friendship. Anxiety and fear is often not soothed. We must remember that those who suffer from leprosy come to us with greater needs than people with other diseases. So what we say to them, and the tone in which we speak to them can either build them and give them hope or break them.

Some of you may have heard of Dr Ernest Fritschi, the famous reconstructive surgeon who was once Director of Karigiri. Dr Fritschi had a soothing, kind voice for his patients. Many of them would wait for hours and queue up patiently to see him even though other doctors were available. Why? Because of the gentle way he spoke to them. He knew that their lives were wretched in many ways, so he made a point of bringing laughter into their lives through his words when they came to see him. He was also firm with them at times, and strict in his instructions on how they should take care of their ulcers.

In many work places today, true friendship is missing because of the unkind words that are used. A young woman shared with me how when she was going through some very difficult family problems, her boss rudely said, “ Leave your problems at home and get on with your job. ” The advice was right, but it could have been said more gently and sympathetically.

In our families and workplaces, we need to make a point of using “building” words as often as possible. Words like ‘ thank you ’, ‘ I’m sorry ’, ‘ I forgive you ”, ‘ That was wonderful” , ‘ Can I help you?” , ‘ God bless you ‘ . We cannot say these words without it affecting the person who says it and the one to whom it is said. The more we use these words, the more they will become not just words, but actions as well, and our families and workplaces will become peaceful, trusting, happy places.

GO AND DO LIKEWISE

We see from the Gospels how Jesus related to the people he met through his words. To the woman caught in adultery, he spoke in a non –judgmental, kind but firm voice, “ Go and sin no more.”

To the outcaste Zacchaeus who was sitting up on the branch of a tree, Jesus brought excitement and hope. “ Come down, I’m coming to your house to stay.”

Time and time again, he told his disciples, “ Do not be afraid, for I am with you.” He took away their fear and brought peace and calmness and enabled them to focus on and face what ever they were afraid of, with courage.

To Judas, who betrayed him with a kiss, Jesus had no words of hatred or anger, just quiet sadness. “ Are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss, Judas? ”

Even when in terrible pain while on the cross, Jesus spoke words of comfort and hope to the thief beside him, “ Today you will be with me in paradise.”

We see how Jesus used words straight from his heart to create new life, deepen relationships, heal and bring hope to people whose lives seemed hopeless. If we too follow his example, and use words that bless others, our families and workplaces will be communities of peace and love.

FOR YOU TO THINK AND DISCUSS

  • Apart from the examples given, look through the Gospels and see if you can find other building words that Jesus used.
  • Make a list of words that build, and another list of words that destroy community life. Keeping these words in mind, go through this week and see which ones you use most and which you hear most. How do they affect your life?
  • What are the kindest words anyone has ever spoken to you? What are the unkindest words anyone has ever spoken to you? How did you react to both?

FOR YOU TO MEDITATE ON

Lord, you have blessed us
with the richness of language and words
so that we can heal and comfort those who are in pain,
and strengthen and encourage those whose lives seem to have no hope,
and bring laughter and joy to those who grieve and mourn.
But too often, we use our words to hurt,
to quarrel, to bring misunderstandings among those we live and work with.
We use words as sharp darts to wound our loved ones when we are angry,
or when we are afraid, or insecure.
Lord, we see how you used words,
to bring new life and healing.
Help us to do the same.
Amen

USHA JESUDASAN - ushajesudasan@gmail.com

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