“Reverend, your sermons have been amazing since you have had time to relax in Korea.”
“Ha ha, thank you. I will try to go more often.”
“Yes, for sure. While you were gone, the pastoral staff did an amazing job preaching as well.”
“Really?! Then I will make sure to vacate more often!”
This was an actual conversation that I had with one of our congregants while eating at church. There was much joy in this wonderful environment, because this congregant said they missed their senior pastor so warmly.
I heard there is a temperature in our language. In Ki Ju Lee’s book, The Temperature of Language, there is a story of a doctor who is taking care of patients. When addressing them, the doctor does not call them by saying, ‘patient’ or ‘sir’ to address the elderly. Rather, the doctor says, ‘Chief Kim’ or ‘Madame Park’. Curious, the author asks the doctor why. The doctor replies by saying, “The idea of being sick is inherent in the word, patient. By calling them a patient, they continue to remain sick! Moreover, there are many that do not like being addressed as an elderly person. That is why I call them by their titles that they had before their retirements. By doing so, they can have a reinvigorated will to fight against their disease. It may be because there will always be that desire to return back to their prime years. In a hospital, words can become medicine.” (Ki Ju Lee, Malgeulteo Publishers, The Temperature of Language, p. 22.)
Paul called the congregants at Corinth, saints. The early church in Corinth was facing issues of division due to discord, immorality due to a culture of debauchery and even an issue with incestuous relationships. Despite all this, he still referred to them as saints. Although we are lacking in many ways, is it not possible that a desire to retain a sense of holiness can be reignited by the way we address each other as saints? If you believe in Jesus and become a member of the church, you must all strive to act responsibly for peace and stability. It is an absolute necessity for our individual spiritual health. Therefore, it has to start with our language and our language must be warm. Our language must not be one of criticism, accusations and hurtfulness, but it needs to bear the warmth of encouragements, lifting up and care. Just as a doctor heals with their words first, we must lift up our family members and church congregants with language of warm temperature. Let’s learn to say the same things in a warm manner.
Rev. Bryan Kim is the lead pastor of Bethel Korean Church, located in Irvine, CA.