This idea immediately intrigued me for a couple reasons. First, because it explains why sometimes we say things and other people don’t know where we are coming from. Try describing New York City skyscrapers to people in East Africa who have never seen a two story hut. And what does "love" look like to people who today for whom the word love is only a sex act?
We say a word, and people hear something different than what we mean. The word Conservative is highly loaded these days. For some it means “family values” whereas for others it means narrow-minded bigots who (if they had their way) would become jack-booted, freedom-stealing fascists. To some the word Liberal means compassionate people who care for the less fortunate, and to others the word means anti-American, anti-business, tree-hugging communist or idealistic airhead.
The point is, we say a word, and it can be invested with a range of different meanings by the hearer. Words are like triggers that awaken meanings in the mind, often with a lot of emotional baggage attached.
Take the word God, for example. For many Christians this is far more than a word. It is the Almighty Creator, Yahweh, the high and holy one, awesome in power, who humbled Himself to die in shame to conquer death and make a way for us to be part of His great family. But if you say “God” in some circles, it means “a concept by which weak people comfort themselves.” Or perhaps a concept by which certain cynical people manipulate manipulate the masses and oppress others.
How are we to communicate in this world where words have become so divested of meaning? Think about it. What do you do when words no longer have any meaning? How do we reach people? How do we help meet needs or make a difference if we can’t use words?
The answer is ever the same: our lives are a book read by all. Our deeds communicate, even when words fail.
Let's not give up on words, but let's also remember that nothing speaks louder than our actions. When our words and deeds correspond, only then will we make a difference in this world.