The biblical phrase, “beat your swords into plowshares and your spears into pruning hooks” comes from the Old Testament prophets Isaiah (2:4) and Micah (4:3). It refers to a time when the justice of God will reign, when his rule of love is willingly accepted and all is blessed in the acceptance of his truth and grace. When we’re purified of our selfish, self-centered ways. When we see him as he is.
The phrase is often employed for peacemaking purposes or to comfort us while, in this strife-ridden world, we long for the just reign of the Prince of Peace.
I’ve never forgotten, however, an Advent homily which developed the phrase with an application much closer to home.
As I recall, the priest connected Isaiah’s text to Proverbs 12:18, in which we read: “The babble of some people is like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise is healing.”
We so often use our tongues as swords: weapons that wound, striking and slashing. Whether these jabs are thrust unthinkingly, in self-defense, or in jealousy or spite, the damage remains. It divides families, friends, neighbors and colleagues in ways that cause lasting harm.
Pruning hooks, the pastor continued, are also blades. But they are tucked inward; they are used for gathering. He invited us to turn our sword-tongues into pruning hooks, to make an effort to choose words that bring people closer together rather than tearing them apart.
It is possible, by God’s grace, to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). It is possible right here, right now, to turn our swords into pruning hooks. Let us begin.
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