Being Misunderstood

James 3:2-18; Psalm 115; Proverbs 21:2

Scrolling my Facebook feed recently, I came across the following meme: “I am responsible for what I said. I am not responsible for what you understood.” My immediate reaction was, “Amen,” but I refrained from hitting Like for reasons that escaped me at the time.

I also failed to see any connection in the moment to the hot news item of the day regarding reprehensible emails from years ago sent by a sports figure (it could just have easily been a politician or celebrity)which had come to light over the weekend and exploded on the scene. Much of the conversation of the day centered around “now we know his heart.” Hear me clearly here, I am not suggesting that he was misunderstood. I don’t know his heart, but his words were condemning.

Mid-morning during a time of quiet and reflection the two collided. I am responsible for my words and I am indeed responsible for how they are understood. Not only that, I remain responsible how they will be heard in days and years to come. Once again, the mirror stands before me.

That’s when exploring life in the context of scripture flooded forward. The writers of the Bible were responsible for their words and how they were understood by their hearers. And we continue to hold them responsible for how we understand those words today. What a heavy burden!

From time to time, I get a mental image of the Bible’s writers gathered together, hearing our misinterpretations of various scriptures, shaking their heads and clucking their tongues in disbelief. Surely they cry out, “No, NO, NO!!!” But just as surely they applaud us for our efforts.

I am reminded yet again of the sage words from mentor Jack Beck, “The Bible was written for us, not to us.” Did the Bible authors know their words would guide our lives 2,000, 3,000, 4,000 years later? Probably not. But nevertheless here we are seeking direction for our lives through their words.

Words are powerful and often leave indelible marks on others. It behooves us to choose them with great care.

To curse or to bless, that is the question,

Robert