This week I was talking with a Christian brother. I have not seen this friend in a long time because we met overseas three years ago and our paths haven’t crossed since. He has no one around him he can call a part of his Christian family... at all. We talked about school, jobs and life. Throughout the conversation I used the word “brother." I didn't notice that I was saying it really. I said things like, “Brother, it’s so good to hear from you” and “I miss you brother.” Then, after about 25 minutes, he broke the conversation and said something about how I was talking to him. He said, “I like it when you call me your brother.”
He caught me off guard because I didn’t even notice I was saying it. "Brother" just seemed appropriate in the conversation. When he said “I like it when you call me you brother,’” he confirmed something about which I have been musing recently: the power of the spoken word. He knew that we are brothers; I knew that we are brothers. But when I spoke what we both knew to be true, my words changed something in his soul. I wasn’t saying anything he didn’t understand or already know. I merely spoke what was true.
With the help of Walter Brueggemann, N.T. Wright and Mirslav Volf, I have developed this positive theology of the spoken word. So, you can be sure, my thoughts are not unique. They are profound, nontheless. Simply stated, this positive theology is that the spoken word has power.
Another phrase often elicits a similar reaction is “I love you.” These are some of the most powerful words that can be spoken, but they can be some of the most difficult, too. A big step in a dating relationship happens when a couple decides (intentionally or not) to say those words, “I love you.” Although we use the word "love" flippantly in America, we know that when directed at a person the words "I love you" are powerful.
I want to unpack this a little more because I think it has profound, practical implications. And since we tend to do a lot of talking, it may prove helpful for more than simply melancholy musing. I will talk first about the power of the word in creation and new creation. Secondly, the power of the spoken word in the life of Jesus. Lastly, I will address the power of the spoken word in the church. More to come.