COG Leadership – “I Give You My Word On That”

The Weight of Words

I believe God places great weight in words. Certainly beyond question He places absolute weight in His words. His words to us have become His Word to us. As a matter of fact we discover that the reliability or weight of His words is the source of our “hope.”

Hebrews 6:17-18 (NCV)
17God wanted to prove that his promise was true to those who would get what he promised. And he wanted them to understand clearly that his purposes never change, so he made an oath.
18These two things cannot change: God cannot lie when he makes a promise, and he cannot lie when he makes an oath. These things encourage us who came to God for safety. They give us strength to hold on to the hope we have been given.

“Do You Promise?”

I miss the days of innocent excitement reflected in the eyes of my children when they were small. Pure little eyes full of anticipation and wonder. These little guys would ask for anything and everything…constantly. As a father of young children I learned early on two of the greatest answers to the endless request of two little people.

Number one answer: “Go ask your mom.” (Isn’t that a terrible confession?)

Number two answer: “We’ll see,” or “Maybe.”

They never were entirely thrilled about either one of those answers from me.

But there were other times when I was able to offer more definitive affirmation of their request. “Dad, can we go camping?” or “Dad, can we go to Disney World?” or, “Dad, can we go swimming later?” And my answer was, “Sure we can!” or “Absolutely!”

I think it was around the time they started kindergarten or maybe early elementary grades that they picked up a common phrase. It was this: “You promise?” I never really thought a lot about it. Although it was apparent that their social circles had exposed them to new communicational and relational dynamics that required the additional verification of probability. “You promise?”

My response was always, “Yes I promise…but I don’t need to.” Somewhere in their early adolescence that phrase begin to sort of disappear. Now they are young adults and with exception of some giddy moments of silliness, that phrase is entirely absent from our conversation. I don’t have to promise anymore. It appears I’ve earned some credibility. I guess we’ve had enough history that my words no longer require additional verification. Just, “My word,” seems to suffice. (Although I still tell them to go ask their mother whenever I can!)

There are other phrases that are sort of social colloquialisms. Here’s one, “Do you give me your word on that?” Here’s another, “Can I just be honest with you?” You can no doubt see where I’m going.

“What Is “Our Word” Worth

In recent days I have been dialoguing with pastors in our denomination about the seeming technical differences between “covenant” and “agreement,” with the apparent difference being one is more binding than the other. I have found that really fascinating. Apparently, like my children, we have been so exposed to things that would require a more specific designation of the weight and strength of words…that it has affected our “word.” Is “our word” not enough?

It is tragic that within our denomination “the words” we often hear in places like our General Assembly…have conditioned us. Like children, we have learned. We have learned that words like, “We will bring this issue back at the next General Assembly and discuss it because it appears to be something very important to you,” may require additional verification. And like my children we want to say, “You promise?”

We hear our elected officials often offer acceptance speeches which include, “I came here today and pledged before God that I would place the direction and determination of His will for my life in the hands of the vote of this General Council.” What amazes me is that the same leaders who trust the General Council of Ordained Bishops to determine God’s will for the direction of their own life and calling…yet refuse to trust that same council to determine the direction of our denomination.

It’s Easy to Point Fingers…

There is an unfortunate trickle down effect of this on our values. Now we as pastors return to our churches and do sort of tricky things with our tithe of tithe and then enter into hair splitting discussions over the veracity and viability technical descriptors. “Is it covenant, or is it an agreement?” “Is it something I am definitively bound to by specific etymological substantiation?”

I am filled with wonder at the relative ease with which we as shepherds who teach “His word,” seem to find some relative degree of comfort in a land somewhere between the microscopic manipulations of the Pharisees and the postmodern postulations of one of the presidents of our nation…”What does ‘is’ mean?”

I liked Jesus’ answer, “Let your yeas be yea, and let your nays be nay, everything else only comes from one place…hell.” I doubt any of the Pharisees hung around or requested further exposition of “his words.” And, I didn’t hear anyone say, “You promise?”

Here’s my own personal point of conviction. I won’t necessarily impose it on you. (Yeah, I know, “You promise?)

I signed an ordination. I think it was a covenant. Maybe it was just an agreement. Either way, I gave “my word” in terms of what was generally understood. Is it a promise or an oath? God says, “It doesn’t make any difference…I gave you MY WORD.”

How can we preach His word… if we can’t keep our own?


One Response

  1. That….



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