Words Can Kill—Literally

Screenshot taken from YouTube Inside Edition

Written By Jasmine Koh, Singapore 

Is telling someone to commit suicide a crime? According to the verdict of a landmark case in US, it is. For urging her boyfriend to take his own life via text messages that led to his suicide in 2014, Michelle Carter was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter this week.

In dozens of text messages and phone calls, Carter had encouraged Conrad Roy III, who had a history of depression, to kill himself. And when the 18-year-old had last-minute jitters after filling his truck with poisonous carbon monoxide gas using a generator, Carter even ordered Roy by phone to “get back in”. It was these final words, said Massachusetts judge Lawrence Moniz, that constituted “wanton and reckless conduct”.

Many legal experts had expected Carter to be cleared of the charges, and were shocked by the verdict, which sent a strong message that encouraging someone to kill himself can be considered as severe as the act of killing. Some have denounced the verdict as unconstitutional, saying it violates free speech protections.

Whatever we may think of the judge’s decision, what we can probably agree on is this: words have power. The Bible notes this too—God spoke the world into being through His words; Jesus healed many just by speaking through to them; and we are reminded of how words can build up or tear down (Proverbs 12:6). In Roy’s case, Carter’s words clearly played a part in destroying his life.

We need to consider the weight of our words and to control our tongues. James 3:6 says, “And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell” (NASB, emphasis mine) .

The comparison of the tongue to a fire is apt: it encapsulates the perverse, powerful nature of this tiny part of the body. Just as a fire that starts at one part of the body can burn up the entire being, misusing the tongue can bring about massive and dire consequences on our lives.

That’s why the apostle Paul, in Ephesians 4:29, urges believers to “not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen”.

May we learn to be mindful to speak words worthy of Christ, and to use our words to show God’s love and saving grace in our daily lives.

Would you make this your prayer? “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)


Tim Farron Quits as Political Leader — Was it the Right Call?

Photo credit: Liberal Democrats via Foter.com / CC BY-ND

Written By Chris Wale, UK

Two days ago (14 June), Tim Farron, leader of the UK Liberal Democrats—one of the larger minority political parties in Britain—announced his decision to step down. This move, which came a week after a general election in which his party did not do particularly well, may not sound all that surprising.

But Mr Farron’s decision had nothing to do with his party’s performance.

In a hastily arranged statement, surrounded by close colleagues, Mr Farron explained, “The consequences of the focus on my faith is that I have found myself torn between living as a faithful Christian and serving as a political leader . . . A better, wiser person may have been able to deal with this more successfully, to remain faithful to Christ while leading a political party in the current environment. To be a leader, particularly of a progressive liberal party in 2017, and to live as a committed Christian and to hold faithful to the Bible’s teaching, has felt impossible for me.”

As a Christian living in the UK, the question I’m left with is this: Has he made the right decision? The general election resulted in a “hung parliament” (which basically means no one won), throwing the country into even more chaos at a very sensitive time. Surely our leaders should be stepping up to the challenge, rather than stepping down? Couldn’t Mr Farron have done more, despite the barriers and burdens he faced because of his faith, and compromises he may have had to make?

I work with people who know Mr Farron very well; they go to the same church as he does. They speak of him as a humble man who loves Jesus. I can’t think of a better description of the sort of person I’d like to be a political leader! We need more people like this guiding our nation. But he chose to step down. Was he right to?

I’m reminded of the advice the apostle Paul wrote to his young friend, who was also called Timothy. Timothy wasn’t a political leader, but he was the leader of a church. Paul told him: “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:16). Timothy clearly had responsibility for the people he led—but as Paul mentioned, Timothy’s first responsibility was his own life before God.

I think that’s what we are witnessing with Mr Farron as well. What’s most important is that God gets the glory in our lives. For Mr Farron, being a humble man who loves Jesus is more important than making political waves (as good as they may have been). If being a party leader was indeed compromising his faith and beliefs, then he absolutely did the right thing. His life before God is his first responsibility—as it is for all of us who know Jesus.

As Christians, we are all going to get “shot at” for our faith. It makes us stand out. Our responsibility is to humbly love Jesus throughout, even if that means making hard choices and walking away from important things. Mr Farron stood out for Jesus, and the media mocked and hated him for it. Yet, despite the “popular opinion” of him, he leaves behind great respect and a God-centred impact on his party.

Mr Farron left his political position before his faith was compromised. He was ridiculed and hated by much of the media (including one report that called his decision “self-obsessed”), but before God, he has clearly shown his priority. When the choice was standing firm in Jesus or pursuing his political career, he chose Jesus.

Thank God for that witness. May we all hope to leave legacies as simple and direct as that.


Manchester bombing: Will we see justice?

Written By Jasmine Koh, Singapore

It should have been an exciting close to a concert by Ariana Grande, with thousands of concert-goers gathering to hear the latest hits of the 23-year-old American pop singer. But it ended in horror when a bomb went off in the foyer of Manchester Arena, killing 22 people and injuring 59, leaving behind a scene of shrapnel, bodies and bloodstains.

The May 22 blast was the deadliest attack in Britain since July 2005, when four suicide bombers attacked London’s transport network, killing 52 people.

Even as news reports continue to stream in with the latest updates on the arrests of the suspected bomber and his accomplices and their links to a terrorist network, questions are already being asked: Why another attack? Who will account for the senseless loss of lives? Who will speak up for eight-year-old Saffie Rose Roussos, or for 42-year-old Marcin Klis? Who will help their families cope with their loss?

In their deaths, many of us will feel great sadness—and anger. We will want to seek justice. Yet, in this battle against terror, it seems there is little we can do to fight the ugliness of mankind. How can we ever ensure that justice is done? Why do we appear so powerless against terrorist attacks?

Perhaps justice can only come from someone above, from someone who is beyond death and life: God, who is in control over all things.

Only God can ensure that good will ultimately triumph over the evil. Only God can deliver judgment—an eternal judgment that will speak for innocent lives and punish the wrongdoings of evil men.

Ecclesiastes 3:17 says: “I said in my heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.” When the time comes for God’s justice to be restored, we can trust that He will judge the wicked in His own time.

Indeed, amid today’s hopelessness and darkness, we can already see glimpses of good and of hope. We catch sight of loving hearts and heroic actions, like those of Chris Parker and Steve Jones, the two homeless men who rushed onto the chaotic scene right after the blast to help rescue an old woman and a little girl. Their actions give us hope in a world gripped by fear.

The Manchester bombing may describe the corruptness of human hearts, as does the suicide bombing at the Jakarta bus terminal that took place two days later. But we can continue looking to God. May we learn to see Him in the chaos, and to be assured that His judgment will come to pass in His time.


United Airlines: Who deserves to be on that plane?

See #UnitedAirlines trending on social media? If you haven’t heard about it, United Airlines is currently embroiled in a controversy over a shocking video of a passenger being forcefully removed from a flight after he refused to be off-loaded.

According to news reports, the flap started when passengers on Kentucky-bound Flight 3411 were offered US$800 to give up their seats to make way for four crew members. No one volunteered so the airlines randomly selected four passengers. While three of them left begrudgingly, Dr David Dao, a Vietnamese-American, resisted, saying that he was a doctor and that he needed to see patients the following day. Chicago Department of Aviation security officers then yanked the 69-year-old from his seat and dragged him off the plane.

Numerous videos captured by fellow passengers went viral and caused a storm. To make matters worse, a company e-mail was leaked revealing the airline’s CEO Oscar Munoz describing Dr Dao as “disruptive and belligerent”. He also said that he stood behind his employees.

Many are now accusing United Airlines of discrimination, saying that they treated Dr Dao so badly because he is Asian. This was not helped by a news report supposedly highlighting the doctor’s troubled past and brushes with the law.

When such things happen, it is easy—almost natural, in fact—to condemn the airline. After all, it would seem that Dr Dao should not have been subjected to the treatment he received, no matter what his past and ethnicity. Some have also condemned the news site for digging up his criminal past.

Reading these arguments has left me with a number of questions. For example: Should our ethnicity determine our worth? Should we be judged on our past? In short: Who deserves to be on Flight 3411?

As Christians, we can take comfort in the fact that in God’s eyes, the answer to the first two questions are: No. God does not see us based on our skin color nor our past. In fact, we are all equal: all of us are sinners, and all of us are in desperate need of His grace. We can do nothing to make ourselves more acceptable to Him, or to increase our worth. That’s why God does not look at our past criminal records and secret sins, nor our achievements and accolades.

In fact, if God were to judge us based on our sins, we would all suffer the same fate as Dr Dao—mercilessly dragged off the plane. We would not even have the chance to be on that plane.

Our merciful Father loves us as His children and forgives our sins. Instead of hauling us off the plane, He invites us to join Him on board.

Now, if God were willing to forgive and put aside His judgment against us, shouldn’t we, as His followers, be willing to do the same? Do we judge people or treat some as less deserving? Having received God’s love and treatment, do we view them the same way God viewed us?

Today, I would like to challenge you to remember that we are all “equal”—we are all sinners who need grace just as we do.

It’s easy to point the finger at United Airlines and others. But is it time to do the same to ourselves?