I can distinctly remember the scene. I was standing outside my house, the noble knight. My left hand firmly grasping my sword. Though made out of plastic, my blade was as white and brilliant as a shard of the sun. It chased away darkness. I stood in the front yard, wielding in my hand a dealer of great blows. After laying low the numerous snarling monsters who surrounded me, my sword began to feel heavy in my hand. This was not weariness mind you for, just as Gawain, the strength of my arm only increased as the day wore on. My sword grew heavy in my hand because the enemies of my imagination were too light. As I easily cleft them in twain, my sword thirsted for heftier targets. Weary of insubstantial foes, my eyes set upon my new foe, the strange protrusion jutting out of my roost, the climbing tree. Up rose my blade, and down fell the ray of light, cleaving the tumorous growth clean from his cruel perch. Again rose the pure blade, and again was my hapless foe struck, full squarely in the center of his body. Into the street rolled the severed consequence of my wrath, vanquished and fallen.
Only later did I learn that my foe was the infancy of a new branch. In my desire to swing my sword, I had destroyed life.
This revelation didn’t affect me much. There was no real consequence to my accidental assault on my favorite tree, and it was probably well worth the glory of the strokes of my sword. The fact remains, however, that in my desire to swing my sword, I severed something important.
We all carry around with us an arsenal of intellectual weapons. When we make an argument or statement, we are swinging our sword with ferocity. Unfortunately, all too often our sword weighs heavily in our hand.
A word spoken out of a heavy hand does damage to the soul. When we use our words or demonstrate ideas simply because we desire to be known for them, we are acting out of pride. To speak is to open your heart to another, for words are a part of who you are. To speak out of pride is to corrupt your heart with the pride of your words. Even the greatest truths can be poisoned by a root in pride.
But the careless swing of a sword does more than damage the wielder. We can all recall the crushed faces and shattered confidences of those who are victims of someone who swings their sword with reckless abandon. How often do we rend others asunder simply because we have power? We cut and scorch those in the path of our blade, for we would rather assuage our desire to display our intellect than care about those in our way. Sometimes the most potent and powerful truth can cause the greatest harm when wielded with pride.
As Scripture declares, the tongue is like a fire. Great damage can be done with a single word. But all too often in the name of our freedom of speech and right to opinions, we cast out our words like arrows made to cut, maim, and tear.
I hope you will forgive me if I indulge in a bit of Le Morte D’Arthur. This passage is set directly after Arthur receives Excalibur from the fair hand of the Lady of the Lake.
Then Sir Arthur looked on the sword, and liked it passing well.
Whether liketh you better, said Merlin, the sword or the
scabbard? Me liketh better the sword, said Arthur. Ye are more
unwise, said Merlin, for the scabbard is worth ten of the swords,
for whiles ye have the scabbard upon you, ye shall never lose no
blood, be ye never so sore wounded; therefore keep well the
scabbard always with you.
The sheathed sword, the word unspoken, will not wound you. Silence, the scabbard, is worth ten of the swords. We must use our words and ideas with discernment, drawing them out only when they will create, rather than destroy, life.
This is not to say that we should shrink from evil. So when should our swords leap from their sheathes? Not when the motivation is knowledge, vanity, or reputation. We should unsheathe our blades only out of love. Love should be the motivator. Speak the truth not for the truths sake, not for your prides sake, speak the truth in love. As Corinthians says, knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. When our motivation is based in pride and posturing, let not our weapon slide from its scabbard. He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword.