Blessing others by actually saying it out loud.
Last week I was blessed by an audible voice.
It wasn’t God’s voice, but it was the truth of God through the lips of a friend.
She’s a rare gift, a woman who speaks the truth of Scripture wisely and appropriately and who lives a life of integrity with her words and actions.
I was surprised by her blessing, because I didn’t realize how much I needed to hear it. It was a balm on my frazzled heart after a worrisome weekend. It was a reminder of who I am in Christ, and who He is in relation to all my worries.
I realized that friends like her are rare for one reason: she understands the impact of speaking a blessing in a culture that feels very free to vent under the guise of “speaking the truth” or tear others apart in private or online.
A few weeks back, I complimented a friend from church. It was a simple thing I mentioned in passing. I said it casually as I walked out to my car in the after-church-mad-dash to find all the kids and get the into the car. She wrote later that my words meant so much to her as she had been discouraged that day and she believed the Lord used me to speak truth into her life. I was surprised that such a small comment could make such a huge impact.
In a world where people use words to manipulate and flatter,
or where Scripture is used as a selfish tool, mis-quoted or mis-applied, or worse, used as a bludgeoning tool for condemnation to people who are under no condemnation,
the spoken blessing puts truth on display in the purest sense. It trickles down into our soul and settles there. It’s a balm that heals, blessing-words applied rightly.
My husband taught our church teens about the expected lifestyle of a Christian from 1 Peter and pulled apart this verse:
“Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.”
He said that when our enemies curse us, God’s expected response from us is to return a blessing. He mentioned that the word blessing means to eulogize (from the greek word eulogeo ) like we would at a funeral. Speak well of them. We take a step back and try to see the big picture, even if the person is flawed and horrible. We then respond to an insult with a blessing, we ask God to prosper them and help them succeed. Instead of wishing harm, we direct God’s goodness to them audibly.
Which begs the question, who are these blessing-words meant to benefit? Us, the enemy, or God? All three, I think.
- Me: Speaking a blessing after receiving an insult helps propel my heart in the direction of love and peace. It reminds me that I was once a debtor to grace and I’ve been forgiven and must now point others to the Peace-Maker. It helps me make the choice not to let someone elses toxic words have power over me. It places them on God’s “hook” and frees them from my hook. It reminds me that God is the judge and I don’t have the right to pronounce judgment on this person.
- Enemy: For the listener, it shows them grace. It helps them see that there is something bigger going on around them and points them to a God of love. It also announces, “I’m not playing this game because I don’t have your motives. My job is to love you.”
- God: God hears our prayer and sees our heart and can intervene in the situation if He feels it is best.
Numbers 6:23-27 gives us an example of Aaron’s priestly blessing on the children of Israel, an unruly, complaining, unworthy, disobedient mob.
Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:
‘“The Lord bless you
and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”’
“So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”
Imagine their response to these words? Their mouths must have gaped open in disbelief after all of their rebellion and foolishness. I wonder if God had Aaron speak them so they’d know that as His children, they are objects of God’s love and family even when they behaved disgracefully? Grace and peace for a motley crew.
As Protestants (and especially as New England area Protestants), I think we shy away from “blessing others” because 1) it seems awkward to say it out loud in a culture that is very reserved, and 2) it reminds us of “religiosity” or of former priests or human intecessors, offices that have been done away with in Christ. In Christ, we now enjoy free access as He is our High Priest and we can come before the throne of grace boldly without hindrance. And the only mediator we have is Christ, and we no longer need a priest to stand between and tell us our position in Christ. We have the Holy Spirit who bears witness in our souls and comforts us. So when we hear that we should bless (speak, encourage, sing, exhort, remind, teach) audibly, we shirk from it. Who are we to say it anyway?
Shouldn’t God’s Word confirm these truths in our hearts? Answer: Yes.
Don’t we have all that we need in Christ, therefore not needing verbal affirmation from others? Again, yes.
So isn’t the command to bless archaic and un-necessary? No.
Blessing is a form of encouragement that reminds us of our standing in Christ and in our community and that we are not left to ourselves.
Doesn’t the Truth spoken in love (blessing and affirmation) squelch the lies we believe about ourselves quicker than anything else?
When a friend calls you up to say how much they appreciate you or what they see God doing through you– doesn’t that help you see the God of Reality and our place in Him on the days when we are still in our pjs until noon and nothing has gone right and we can’t get out of our own way, or we’ve stumbled into a situation again by our own foolishness and now are reeling from the consequences of our own sin? Their blessing is first aid for our sin-scarred flesh. Doesn’t speaking a blessing bandage wounds that seep septic lies of failure and uselessness? Don’t they anoint and cover those tender spots that ache from loss and disappointment?
I need to remind you that you are loved by God when you are in the middle of a struggle with sin and feel distant from God. When you’ve said too much and hurt others with your words, I need to remind you that God wants you near and will never abandon you even when others push away, and that one failure isn’t a representation of the whole picture. Isn’t this the gospel, friends? It’s all Him.
And I need you to remind me that when my closets are falling out on me or I can’t please everyone all of the time or when I’ve lost my temper or not lived up to my own ideals, that it’s not a reflection of my worth or identity and it’s not who I am in Christ. That this struggle with the flesh is momentary, and ahead of me awaits an incorruptible inheritance for a most beloved daughter of God.
The blessing puts reality on display without regard for the worthiness or worthlessness of the recipient.
It’s a form of encouragement because it infuses courage into a heart that is faltering. It’s lifting up the drooping arms or standing in the gap for someone who can’t even pray as they should.
We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.
2 Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.
3 For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”
4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had,
6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Do you tend to bless others or do you feel weird and awkward doing so? This week, try it.
Ask God to show you who needs to hear His truth today. Maybe its a child in that awkward stage of life who needs to be reminded that they are so loved and accepted by God even when their peers are cruel. Maybe it’s one of those prickly people in your life who never seems to learn from their own mistakes. Bless them. It’s a form of loving your neighbor which seeks their best and knits your heart in love to theirs and it’s really hard to hold a grudge toward someone you are actively blessing.