What is faith? I believe true faith is not being pulled into the stormy waters of doing violence even if swamped over by the violence. But, instead, true faith is imitating the image of God; that is, doing the will of God to love others.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells the crowd to gather around as if he going to give a helpful tip on the stock market. “Listen and understand,” he says, “it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles” (Matthew 15:10). Jesus is showing that there is no distinction between clean and unclean food – what God created is good – the physical and the spiritual are one in the goodness of God. Furthermore, Jesus is showing that he came not only for the Jews, but for the Gentiles as well.
Jesus is showing that he is not only the Jewish Messiah, but also the Lord of Life, the Christ for all people, and the Savior for the whole world. All racial and ethnic groups are included. All victims of our world, such as unjust racial structures and poverty, have a place in the kingdom of God. And, aren’t we glad of that!
Jesus explains further, “Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person” (Matthew 15:17-20). Faith can be expressed in loving words.
Each of us are created from God’s love. God’s DNA – God’s love – God’s Spirit is within us. We are the image of God. We come from God’s love, we live in the very life of God’s love, we will have eternal life in God’s love. Thus, it would seem that expressing ourselves with loving words, and thereby expressing ourselves with a sincere attitude of love for another would be easy, but the truth is that precious few people do it well.
If we only realize that expressing ourselves with loving words comes from our union with God. It comes from the divine Spirit within us; it comes from being glorified to the innate goodness within each person. Expressing ourselves with loving words comes from touching and sharing the divine. If we only realize how powerful words are, I think we would work harder at the task of expressing our love with words.
Some years ago, an elderly woman in her eighties was dying in a local hospital. Her son drove in from someplace near the western coast to be with her. I happened to be present when he arrived and entered the room. He walked over to the bedside of his aged and dying mother, leaned over, and kissed her on the cheek.
Then, touched by that tender moment of seeing her so weak and vulnerable, he said, “Mom, you have been such a good mother to me. And I want you to know that I love you.”
She opened her eyes and said, “Son, I don’t remember the last time you’ve told me that. Yesterday, was your sixty-fourth birthday, and I can’t recall the last time you told me that you loved me.” Imagine, it took him a lifetime to say, “I love you” to his mother.
Let me ask you something. Is there a word of love that you need to speak today? If you are fortunate enough to still have your parents, how long has it been since you told your mom or dad how much you love and appreciate them? Or if you are married, how long has it been since you told your mate? I don’t mean a quick peck on the cheek, “I love you,” as you walk out the door, but a real heart-to-heart expression of your love in words.
And if you are a parent, how long has it been since you told your children how proud you are of them and how much you cherish them? I know that a parent needs to offer words of correction or discipline at times. But parents always need to give words of love, appreciation, and encouragement. We need to be a cheerleader. We need to say, “I love you!”
Rev. Tom Cici is the pastor at First Christian Church of Hoopeston (502 E. Main St.). Please go to www.fcchoopeston.org for inspirational sermons and much more.