Words That Bless During This Political Season
Fr. Luke A. Veronis
As we approach our political elections two months from now, we all hear plenty of political ads. Unfortunately, many of these ads are filled with fear, negativity, half-truths and distortions, along with outright lies of what the other candidate said. All this in an attempt to influence and even manipulate the voters. What is worse for me is when the candidates talk about faith values and then in total contradiction to what they claim to believe they approve or accept such negativity and distortions of truth.
We’ve lost civil and polite discourse in our society especially in our politics but even in our everyday life. We look at the “other,” the one who disagrees with our opinions, and feel we have the right to disparage them and reject them, sometimes even dehumanizing them. This especially happens via social media, where we don’t have to look at someone in the eyes as we say things.
What a contrast when we compare this attitude with St. Paul’s words to the Corinthians when he says, “Let all that you do be done with love.” (1 Cor 16:14) Think how different our actions would be if we attempted to live by this precept. Imagine if all we did, we did in love. Think how different our society would be, and the world around us, if we tried to live out these words every day, in every setting of our lives!
Our Orthodox Christian Faith teaches the most basic principle that “God is love,” and He is the Source of all love. When we allow His Spirit to fill us with His presence, and guide us with His teachings, then we slowly become like Christ, people of love. Jesus clearly stated to His followers, “By this the world will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Love is the essence of our faith, and yet, all of us need to be reminded again and again how to live out such love in our daily lives. In this reflection, I will focus on only one aspect of living out this love – and that focus will be on what comes out of our mouths as well as on what we post in social media!
Our daily words. Our conversations. Our regular dialogue. Our common speech. Our social media posts. Are our typical conversations filled with love, or filled with fear and hatred? Are our words something that unite or divide? Do we speak in positive ways that builds up and encourages others, or in negative ways that tears people down.
One of my favorite passages from the Apostle Paul’s letters is what he writes to the Ephesians. “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” (Ephesians 4:29)
How often is our daily speech filled with exactly the opposite? How often do our social media posts represent the exact opposite? We participate in gossip that hurts and destroys. We pass on lies and outrageous fear. We naively accept conspiracy theories. We speak unclean words that add to the impurity of the world. We sometimes consciously injure, and so often unconsciously hurt. Too often, our words don’t build up, but tear down!
As a priest, I find it sad when I hear someone curse or swear in front of me, and then apologize because they said such words in front of a priest. “Sorry Father, I didn’t realize you were here.” For such people, they compartmentalize their language (and oftentimes their entire lives) so that it is OK to speak (or act) in certain ways in front of their friends, or co-workers, or buddies, but realize it’s not OK to speak or act this way in front of a priest. Why the compartmentalization? And we do similar compartmentalization in our social media. We post things there that we would never say to someone’s face.
We have to remember that God is present everywhere. We need to be conscious of what we say, and how we say it, regardless of whether a priest is around or not. We have to cultivate the sense of God being “everywhere present and filling all things,” as we say in our daily Orthodox prayer to the Holy Spirit.
God is everywhere present and is with us at each moment of the day. Do we realize this and are we conscious of this when we speak, when we act, in all that we do? I’m sure if we physically saw Christ before us, we would we speak, act, and live quite differently. But HE IS PRESENT, we just don’t have the mind and heart to sense His presence!
“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.”
What a beautiful biblical passage to memorize, and then try to live by each and every day. Try today to memorize this verse, and then each morning, as you get ready to begin your day, strive to live by these words. Think of how you can become God’s instrument in imparting His Grace to whomever you speak with.
Imagine, if in every conversation we could impart grace to our hearers! In every discussion, if our words could edify the listener?
In the Theology of our Church, we look at every Sacrament as a sacred mystery by which the grace of God comes upon us. For example, in Holy Communion we take common bread and wine and ask the Holy Spirit to come down upon it, mystically changing these elements into the Body and Blood of Christ. In this Sacrament the grace of God comes upon us, and it is a means by which we commune with God and become united with Him.
And yet, our Church doesn’t limit its sacraments to seven. We believe many acts can become means of communing with God. Thus, maybe we can even look at our daily conversations and words as sacred moments of each day – moments by which God’s grace may come upon our listeners. In this way, we become instruments of God’s love, building up and blessing everyone we encounter each day!
“Let all that you do, be done in love… Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” May we strive to live by these words throughout this week!