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The Power of Words


I have a special place in my heart for teachers. Their job demands creativity, intelligence, and relentless hope. Mrs. Crosby was amazing. She was young, smart, and fierce. She hated mediocrity and demanded excellence. Her love for us and literature came through. She taught us that words have power.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. knew about the power that words contain. My heart soared as I read his famous “The Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Despite his unjust incarceration, Dr. King grabbed whatever paper was handy and wrote this magnificent document. He addressed it to clergy who denounced his efforts.

They called Dr. King an agitator and an outsider. But he directed them to the Bible and the apostle Paul’s ministry. Paul was beaten, shipwrecked and incarcerated, but that “outsider” did not succumb to societal pressures. Dr. King noted how first-century Christians not only gathered for worship, but were responsible for “ending infanticide and gladiatorial events.” He called them a “colony of Heaven…called to be thermostats, not thermometers.”

In 2010, I stood on the Edmund Pettis bridge. It was the bridge where blacks and whites were beaten because they wanted to march for voting rights. As I pictured that horrific day, I asked myself, ‘what am I marching toward?’ ‘What price am I willing to pay?’

President Woodrow Wilson said, “If you want to make enemies, try to change something.” As much as people admire Dr. King now, he had plenty of enemies then. But his heart for equality and justice would not relent.

My teacher, Mrs. Crosby, continues to urge me to fight fear and strive for excellence. It can be scary, especially when it’s easier to quietly sit in the shadows instead of standing in the glaring light of change.

During WWII, General George Patton often wrestled with anxiety, but won victory after victory. How did he accomplish this? Of his success he said, “I learned not to take counsel from my fears.”

What are you dreading? What’s holding you back? Take counsel from Psalm 27:1, “The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear?” Also, 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and a sound mind.”

Dr. King lived under the threat of death daily. He gave us these words of courage:

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”

Mrs. Crosby was right—words have power. Let’s be bold enough to speak up for justice, hope and healing. Maybe we can teach the world what life can really be like.

Roy Patterson, Community Relations Director

© 2022 Moody Bible Institute

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