Children often respond to the taunts of their peers with lyrical retorts of their own. Successful rejoinders not only insult their opponents but also disarm the previous litany of words. It’s a deft strategy similar to the ones superheroes use to stop a would-be assassin’s bullets. Sure, the assailant gets the shot off, but the impact is blunted.
The problem with this strategy, however, is that it’s grounded on a fallacy. The children say that the words are insignificant, but we all know that’s not true. Someone once took the response and made it more accurate by acknowledging the impact words can have. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can break my heart.” We want to believe that words are just words, that they have no significant to our lives and that they can be quickly disregarded. However, having been stung by the pain of someone else’s words, we all know that this is simply a wish that remain unfulfilled.
However, there are times when words are just words. Not in the sense that the children on the playground mean it, but in the sense that the words are apt, appropriate, and are the words that should be spoken at the time. Often times we hate to hear these words of justice, words that show are insufficiency in comparison to God’s perfection, words that reveal that sin that prompts our actions. Sometimes, words uncover that which we want to remain hidden, but just like the judge issues a just pronouncement of a criminal’s sentence, words can also be used to reveal the just punishment of God that we all deserve.
The good news is, that the words Christ said on the cross were not “You are guilty”, but “it is finished.” He paid in full the penalty for the wrongs that we committed. These words were anything but insignificant. They are the proclamation of our salvation. They signify that our punishment has been paid by another. It was a travesty of justice, and a pronouncement of grace. They weren’t just words, but they were the triumph of a Savior.