When Words Deafen
The night was still young, but the sun’s rays had long sunk beyond the horizon. He stood on the dusty road, alongside his companions, looking through a drowsy haze. The night was cool and still, but an organized cadence of step thundered before him. Fire danced on torches; light threw eery shadows to the ground with no regard. Before the sun would crest the horizon, returning from its sojourn to the other side of the world, a domino effect would be set in motion that was destined to change humanity.
He was no doubt tired, after all he had been sleeping rather tranquilly before Jesus awoke him (again and again). As the cogs in his mind began to catch traction he soon realized that the ruckus coming from up the road was none other than a battalion of soldiers. The knowledge sparked neurons and activated muscles; adrenaline was being dumped into his veins faster than his ever increasing pace of breath. A sweaty palm firmly grasped the cold handle of a concealed sword. In a matter of moments the sword, almost of its own accord, leaped from its sheath and propelled towards the head of its defenseless target. Metal met flesh and chaos erupted.
No doubt we are all familiar with the spontaneity of Peter’s defense of Jesus. As Jesus, an innocent man, was about to be led away by an unnecessarily large entourage of force, Peter’s love for Jesus was not going to let it be done without blood. The ear of a young servant was severed (quite possibly an embarrassing moment for Peter as he stood before the empire’s elite swordsmen). Quickly, miraculously, Jesus diffused the situation by returning the ear to its rightful place. Muscles froze; mouths dropped. The moment happened quicker than it has taken you to reach this place in the article, but an eternal truth was established. Spontaneous defense, even in defense of Jesus, all too often severs ears.
Please, read that last line again because it is absolutely vital to advance our discussion. Of this concept John Lennox (2015) in his book Against the Flow says this,
“One might just be forgiven for observing that using swords, or any other physical force, to defend Jesus and his kingdom has the effect of cutting off ears, one way or another: violence remains one of the main reasons why many people will not listen to Christ’s message” (pg. 38).
Lennox is speaking directly of physical uses of force and campaigns against an opposing worldview here (such as the Crusades) but his context implies a verbal meaning as well.
The field of apologetics, in Christendom specifically, is composed of those who actively defend the truth of the message of Jesus Christ. John Lennox of one such apologist who has spent his career defending Biblical truths against those whose aim it is to make a mockery of faith and undermine belief. The word apologetics derives from the Greek word apologia that implies a defense of one’s reason. The Greek word is found in the New Testament a myriad of times, but the apologist receives his benediction in 1 Peter 3:15. The verse says, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”
This article is in no way met to oppose the field of apologetics when it comes to defending the Christian message. In fact, I agree with both Peter (the same guy who cut off the servant’s ear defending Jesus) and the apologist in the fact that we, as believers in the Christian message, must be able to properly defend our worldview and belief system. In a world that is relativizing every value and principle, the Bible upholds you must know why you believe what you believe, or soon you will not believe what you currently believe. I ask you, why do you believe the Bible? Why do you go to church? Why is the Christian message true? What makes it true above any other of the world’s ever-growing plethora of religions? Why must one be saved in the name of Jesus? Why? My friends, the day of coasting through church quit being hip the second its first deceived victim backslid and left the church. We live in the information age, please, by all means, make use of it. If you cannot answer any of the above questions (and the ever abundance of questions like it the world is throwing at the church) please, I beg you, find the answers. After all, if you don’t know why you believe what you believe, then do you really believe it?
Now, with all of that being said, let us get to the heart of the matter. If you can, when you can, make a proper defense of the Christian message it is of utmost importance that you understand a simple statement. Scientia potentia est. The term is a Latin aphorism; translated it means “knowledge is power.” Knowledge is a weapon, use it wisely. Standing outside the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter learned the price of wildly yielding a weapon. The price is always the severing of ears.
Just because you’re right does not make you right. There are those who will no longer come to our churches because of debates and arguments they have had with those who wildly swung truth in their direction. They no long have an ear for the truth because it was severed long ago. I was once wisely told, “You can win an argument but lose a soul.” Next time you’re discussing evolution, Oneness theology, the existence of God, or whatever other innumerable discussions there are to be had in defense of the gospel, keep this in mind. Jesus did not tell his disciples to win every argument; he told them to win every soul. Your friend, relative, neighbor, boss, co-worker, employee, professor, waiter/waitress… they are all souls.
The old nursery rhyme says, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” I don’t think I need to embark, on what will no doubt become a tautology, in attempting to expose the fallacious lie these words contain. Words have hurt. Words do hurt. Words will hurt. The fact of the matter is that a bone will heal, but hurtful words seem to get stuck in an infinite loop, topping the Billboard chart of the mind. Words matter, so be careful how they are used in defense of the Christian message. It’s a scary thought to consider breaking the message you are defending in the same breath.
The Bible tells us to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Our world seems to have missed the simple point that love and truth are not a dichotomy. The world today says, “If you love me then you will let me do what I want, even if it’s wrong.” The result is that somehow the church has become the bad guy simply by standing up for its values. While, at the same time, the opposing worldview is crowned the hero for doing the same thing. In all of this, the Bible does not tell us to love people and just forget about Biblical truths if they get in the way. The Bible tells us we are to “speak the truth in love”. Meaning, don’t stop speaking the truth, just make sure you’re doing it in love.
In conclusion, Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Remember that the word of God a weapon that if not yielded properly can just as easily sever those it was intended to save.