A sermon I heard recently focused on the five Hebrew words that Jonah preached to Nineveh: Forty-Days-More-Nineveh-Will be Destroyed.
It takes more words in English, as Jonah’s Hebrew requires just one word to indicate verb tense.
The preacher pointed out that these harsh yet necessary words were not great words to hear, but they transformed a city into repentance and another chance with a God who had been ready to enact justice. These words of judgment led to their openness to mercy.
The preacher went on to wonder about the five word combinations we might hear that can have the same effect – leading us to new openness to God’s mercy:
- Your position has been terminated.
- Your test came back positive.
- We are closing your division.
- I don’t love you anymore.
- The other passenger was killed.
- We lost all your investment.
- Your insurance doesn’t cover this.
- You didn’t pass the test.
- I find the defendant guilty.
These are moments when our broken hearts need mending, and only grace can begin to set things toward the right.
The insight from this sermon gripped me. I found myself committing yet again to do all I can do to help set the organizations and leaders I serve on the path of being instruments of God’s grace, especially with the transforming words that must be spoken. These words of what feels like harsh judgment, occasionally necessary to say, can be transformed into renewed joy:
- Welcome to your new career.
- You don’t have cancer anymore.
- What can we create together
- May I have this dance?
- We awarded the memorial scholarship.
- The first-fruits are the Lord’s.
- Can I be of assistance?
- You are gifted for this!
- Your debt is fully paid.
Our use of transforming words should grow from a deepening commitment to be God’s partners. May it be our growing desire to see life’s harshness give way to new hope that clarifies values and the decisions that grow from them.
Grow in your effectiveness as a steward leader by joining other Christ-centered men and women for the leadership training event of the year: The Outcomes Conference: April 14 – 16, 2015, Dallas, TX.