Use Words

I do not seal my lips, Lord, as you know. I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help. – Psalm 40:9-10 (NIV)

“Preach the gospel at all times; if necessary, use words.” Many Christians love this saying attributed to St. Francis (who didn’t say it, but never mind). I wonder if it’s because it gets us off the hook of verbal testimony and blesses our activist inclinations. In acts we trust. In words, not so much.

During his first presidential run, Barack Obama was mocked for his words. He’s eloquent, his detractors complained, but eloquence doesn’t fix things. Pretty promises are a dime a dozen. Tell us your plans. Show us your accomplishments! 

In another election, this one in a Mexican municipality, the ruling party candidate did just that, touting the streetlights and sewer lines the party had constructed. Of course, rampant graft meant everything was badly built. Things broke down with depressing regularity. Still, the paid crowd applauded on cue. Except for one man in the back who raised a massively subversive sign: Enough accomplishments! Give us promises!”

Sometimes what’s most needed is not a new sewer but a new word. A beautiful, convicting word capable of orienting drifting hearts, galvanizing hope, cultivating endurance, and engendering joy. A word that helps others perceive and believe the goodness we ourselves have known – saving grace, faithful companionship, loving arms opened to us when other arms had closed. Our word. Our testimony.

Some people say the last thing the world needs is words, but the truth is the last thing the world needs is silence.

Holy Spirit, move us to testify. Unseal our lips to tell the world about the God we know in Christ, whose joy is boundless, whose welcome is wide, whose mercy never ends.

About the Author
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.