Bread – Sweet Speech

November 12, 2008


Readings for Monday through Wednesday, November 10-12

            from the Book of Common Prayer:

            Joel 1:1-2:19, Rev. 18:15-19:21, Luke 14:12-15:10

            Psalms 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 119:97-120

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The passage of the pro-marriage amendment, followed by the preaching in our churches of the Biblical testimony against homosexual sin, has recently resulted in an outpouring of protests against the church and against all who preach Biblical truths.  We are accused of setting back “civil rights” years and years.  We are accused of “hate speech.”  These protestors are attempting and will attempt to use the “hate speech” laws which exist to shut down and shut up both us and our preachers, all on the theory that the statement “homosexuality is a sin” is equivalent to yelling “fire” in a crowded theater.

 

What is happening in a nutshell is that Party A is speaking a truth, which prompts a outrageous response from Party B, which then is used to blame Party A for the statement.  We could as well charge Party B with an outrageous response and arrest him for mayhem, but we would rather arrest the speaker.

 

Sexual sin is sin, along with anger, eating too much, drinking too much, swearing, selfishness, pride, and theft.  All are abominable to God.  All of us are guilty, but not all of us will be punished as we should be (more on that later).

 

To analogize what is happening, let us pick a different sin.  Our preachers speak out about the sin of abuse of our body, the temple of God, by drunkenness.  The drunks overreact and show up by the thousands outside our doors, saying that we are engaged in “hate speech” against drunks, and our preachers are arrested for speaking against drunkenness because their “hate speech” has caused an uproar.

 

But what has really caused the uproar?  Is it the “hate speech” or our overwhelming desire not to be confronted with our sin acts and our sinful nature?  The pronouncement of homosexual conduct as a sin should result in only on of three reactions: (a) repentance and a turning toward God and away from sin (of all kinds), (b) a dismissive response like – “you silly people, you don’t know what you are talking about,” or (c) a deferral response like “I don’t think I will deal with this today.”  Instead, the pronouncement of the sinful nature of homosexual conduct results in an absolutely hostile reaction — a reaction which speaks to our psychological abhorrence to being confronted by the truth of our sinfulness, our foolishness, and our separateness from the source of life.  If my whole life is defined by my drunkenness, then I will hostilely respond to suggestions that I am wallowing in sin.  If my whole life is defined by my relationship to God or at least a passing relationship with honesty, then I will respond to the charge of drunkenness with repentance, with dismissiveness, or with deferral of consideration.

 

So what has any of this to do with our readings today?  Actually, a lot.

 

First, God’s speech in the Bible is full of “hate speech,” at least if you are going to define “hate speech” as speech directed to confronting us with our sinful reality and our need for a Savior.  For example, Jesus says in Luke 14:33 that “any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”  By making this statement, Jesus is obviously showing “hatred” toward those people who want to hold onto a few things.  After all, if you tell me I can’t do something (or shouldn’t do something), you clearly “hate” me, right?

 

Second, God clearly lays out what should be our proper response to His “hate speech,” His confrontation with us about our sin.  And that response is properly acknowledgment of the truth of what is said and repentance.  In Joel, God unleashes a monstrous storm of locusts and warriors against the people and then follows that with this:

 

“‘Even now,’ declares the LORD, ‘return to me with all your heart, … Rend your heart … Return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.‘”  Joel 2:12-13

 

In Luke, Jesus says the same thing — “there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”  Luke 15:7.

 

Have you been the recipient of “hate speech,” from the Bible, the pulpit, or a Christian friend?  Instead of getting angry and becoming hostile, have you thought about the fact that there are at least three other reactions you could have — repent, shrug it off, or ignore it?  Have you considered that God is calling you to repentance, not just for the one sin which has touched a nerve, but for all of your sins (and there are a lot, believe me)?

 

What has been keeping you from a proper reaction?  Is what you are hearing getting too close?

 

The truth hurts, but it heals and saves, particularly when your reaction to the truth is repentance.

 

Avoid the calamity which is coming — repent and turn to the Lord.  And all of a sudden the “hate speech” will become “sweet speech,” not because the content has changed but because, by being confronted with the reality of your sin as a saved Christian, you are reminded of how far Christ has brought you and how different you have become, and that is sweet indeed.

 

You see, when you realize that God is speaking to you to save you, what you thought was “hate speech” becomes “sweet speech.”  Think about it.  Pray about it.  Ask God to reveal it to you.

 

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Lord, help us to love your Word, incarnate in Jesus Christ and written in Scripture.  Help us Lord to come to you and to bring others to you.  Help us know that you are God and we are not.  Assist us Lord through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to so conform our lives to your revealed plans that there is identity of our actions with your will.   It is only through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ that we are empowered to even make this prayer.  And so we thank you and praise you!  Amen.

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