“Go pull weeds” was a phrase that brought tears to my eyes during summer vacation as a kid. My dad always led our family to plant a huge garden, bigger every year, and it was my job to keep it weed-free. I can remember sitting out in the garden crying, thinking, “I will never be done with this job!” The worst part was that I was regularly instructed not to just pull the tops off the weeds, but to pull up the roots as well, which took much more effort. Years later, it is easy to see why this arduous task was necessary — to prevent the weeds from choking out the intended plants.
Have you ever noticed that hurtful words can grow up and put a chokehold on our relationships? At my house, when the kids start getting chippy with each other, it is easy for me to resort to quick words, like “Knock it off or you are going to lose your iPod for a year.” While these words are meant to quell the behavior, they tend to create more problems than they solve. Maybe you know exactly what I am talking about. Negative words may arise when you are riding in the car or working on a project with your spouse. They might come about when a sibling or another relative interjects advice and does not mind his or her own business. Whatever the situation, you are irritated and you let the other person have it. Is it wrong to put someone in their place when they are asking for it?
Jesus is teaching his followers to pull up and get rid of disrespectful words or face the consequence of judgment. “Raca” is an Aramaic word that means empty-headed. It is the old fashion way of insulting someone by saying you are stupid or a moron. Calling someone a fool is even more disrespectful. It is more intense than “Raca” because it denotes a spiteful attitude and hatred. According to Jesus and his expanded instruction, these are words that kill. The Lord values the sanctity of human life and loyal love in relationships; therefore, when we use abusive words that degrade another, we are not in line with Jesus.
When we are convinced that hurtful words need to be pulled up in our lives, we need to make sure that we go below the surface and pull them up by the roots. The beginning of Matthew 5:22 alerts us to the source of these injurious words, “But I tell you anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” God does not condemn all anger. There is an anger that is right. God’s anger is slow, lasting only a moment, and is directed at injustice. On the other hand, man’s anger comes from a desire for vengeance, and so, is directed at people instead of a situation. Pulling up the roots means repenting or turning from man’s anger and agreeing with God that it is wrong.
Are you ready for a new way to direct your relationships? It is easy to blame others for your angry feelings and the words that ensue, but I encourage you to resist this and own your part and seek God’s forgiveness.
What would happen if you and I took Jesus’ way to heart? Our words would lift others up and criticism would be constructive. Love would flow and it would change your life and those around you. The best part: not as many weeds to pull!
Norm Byers is the lead pastor of Genesis Church, with two locations meeting Sundays at 9:30 a.m. at the Petoskey Middle School and 11 a.m. at Boyne City Elementary. Visit www.genesiswired.com or Twitter @normbyers.
Speaking with clarity and wisdom
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