I will never forget the first time I said "I love you" to Kelly. She was only 16 and I was 18. We'd only been dating for a short time. I walked her to her door after on of our date and said good night and then it just came out, "I love you." I said ti as much out of habit as anything (that's the what we said when we told each other good night in my childhood family). There was an awkward pause... and Kelly did not reciprocate.
Back in the car on the drive home, I was kicking myself. Why did I say that? It wasn't appropriate because we hadn't been dating long enough and I didn't really mean it; it just slipped out. When I got to my house, the phone rang and it was Kelly. She said, "I think I should explain why I didn't say I love you back. Those are very important words to me and I don't use them lightly. I think you should really know that you love someone before you tell them "I love you.""
Now that sounded different--so much more mature and honest than most 16-year-old girls I knew at the time. And it impressed me that Kelly had a deeper understanding of love and was willing to stand up for what she believed in and to call me and explain.
Well, we are supposed to sound different than the world. You see, long ago, God chose you to be holy different--to think different, to act different, to look different, and to sound different. How You Sound--what you say--is serious business. Proverbs 18:21 says, "The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences." Proverbs 15:4 says, "Gentle words are a tree of life; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit." And Proverbs 12:18 says, "Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing." And listen to what Jesus said about the power of what holy people say.
22 Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God. 23 I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. 24 I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. 25 But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.”
First, holy people have faith to speak and move mountains. Holy people use their words to change lives and change the world. In the 1960s, Martin Luther King, Jr. looked around and found a world full of racial discrimination and segregation. It seemed like an impossible mountain to move, but King knew it was not right and he was a Christian leader, a holy man. So King began to speak and what he said sounded different from everyone else. He urged non-violent protest. He spoke about how segregation and racial bigotry was hurtful not just black people, but also to white people and oppressors. King preached that we all need healing--even those who are mistreating others.
Holy people don't just sound different when they speak out on momentous social justice issues. Mountains are moved in small ways every day. David Crawford is the music minister of our church. Not only is he talented, but he also has a Christ-like attitude that blesses so many people in so many ways. David started attending my church decades ago when Tom Dickson invited him to come. Tom's invitation was just a small thing, but it has made a world of difference for everyone David blesses at my church is linked to Tom's invitation.
Holy people pray. Philippians 4:6 says, "Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done." When others get made, get sad, get worried, get discouraged, holy people pray. Negative emotions produce more negative emotions. Worry and stress produce more worry and stress. Everyone gets to talking and dwelling on their worries and stress and all the negative emotions just get worse and more intense. But holy people sound different. Holy people pray and God gives them peace. And peace gives birth to more peace. “Blessed are the peacemakers…”
On June 17, 2015, Dylann Roof gunned down 9 Christians in a church in Charleston, SC. The relatives of the slain had a chance to speak directly to the gunman at his first court appearance. One by one, those who chose to speak did not turn to anger. Somehow—by the grace and power of God—they were able to speak life even in the presence of the man who brought death to their loved ones. [i]Nadine Collier, the daughter of 70-year-old Ethel Lance, said at the hearing, her voice breaking with emotion. “I forgive you,” she told him. “You took something very precious away from me. I will never get to talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you, and have mercy on your soul. … You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people. If God forgives you, I forgive you.”
Forgiveness sounds different. It brings healing—first of all to you. Bitterness will poison you from the inside out. Holding a grudge will tear you apart and damage all your other relationships. Forgiveness helps you heal and move on to the brighter future God want to give you.
Are You Ready to Sound Different?
Thankfully, most of us will never experience the tragedy of our loved ones being gunned down in a church prayer meeting. But there are still some practical things that everyone can do to sound different than the world. First of all, get in the Word f God. Your conversations are not scripted. They are spontaneous. It's not practically to measure every word you're going to say and how you say it. Most of what you say just comes from your heart. Jesus said, "What you say flows from what is in your heart." (Luke 6:45). So fill your heart with God's Word. Dig into the Bible so that you are more and more like Christ in your heart. Then everything you say will flow from your Christ-like heart and you will sound different and holy.
Second, refuse to use abusive or vulgar language. Don't try to tear people down in order to make yourself feel better or right. There is already too much of that going on in our world. Holy people should sound different. Refrain from cutting remarks or trolling on Facebook. Refuse to gossip or talk about people behind their backs. Instead of texting or emailing, call or visit and talk to people directly.
Third, encourage people with love and grace. Be kind. Be positive. The world has enough negativity and darkness. Sound different. Speak light, not darkness. Speak life, not death.
Fourth, use your words to invite people to church. People need to be in the church. We need Jesus and we need each other. The Church is the place Jesus chose for his holy people to gather. Let us gather as many here as we can.
Some will say, "But I've already asked everyone I know." Jesus told a parable about that--the parable of the great banquet. A master sent his servants to invite people to a great banquet. One by one, all the guests made excuses why they couldn't come. So the master sent his servants out saying, "Go out into the highways and byways and compel everyone you can so that my banquet may be full.” It may be that the people you are asking just don't feel they need to be in church. But there are many others out there who realize they're in desperate need. So go. Invite them! They may be different from you, but different is OK. Jesus loves different. In fact, God chose us all to be different and holy. So build some relationships with different people. Invite them to lunch. Get to know them. And invite them to church.
Are you Ready to Sound Different? Good! Because God wants you to be holy different--to think different, to act different, to look different, to sound different, to be different. You are His holy people, a royal priesthood set apart for His special purposes to go into all the world and make disciples of Jesus Christ to build His Kingdom. Amen.