Words by James R. Coggins

Writers live by the word. And sometimes they die by the word.

The pen is mightier than the sword, and, like a sword, it cuts both ways.

When I was editor of a Christian magazine, we used to publish 25,000 words every two weeks, and we were never sure which 5 of them would get us into trouble. A denominational minister once told me I had to decide whether I wanted to be a pastor or a prophet because “prophets don’t live very long.” I preferred to be a prophet. I was convinced that playing it safe all the time and avoiding risks would also not accomplish very much. In the end, I lasted 19 years with the magazine, which is well above the expected term for a prophet. Or for a pastor.

Jesus warned that we would be called to account for every careless word we speak (Matthew 12:36). James warned that our words can act like sparks that set a great forest on fire (James 3:5-6). We should never use words carelessly. But we should also not be afraid to challenge people and tackle difficult issues if we want to make a difference with our words. Jesus is the Word (John 1:1), and He used words to challenge the rulers of His day—and they killed Him for it. But, like the prophets before Him, He also used words to bring comfort and encouragement and hope.

Words can be used to offer comfort and to challenge, and as writers we should do both. Words can bring life and warn against death.

About jrcoggins

James R. Coggins is a professional writer and editor based in British Columbia, Canada. He wrote his first novel in high school, but, fortunately for his later reputation as a writer, it was never published. He briefly served as a Christian magazine editor (for just over 20 years). He has written everything from scholarly and encyclopedia articles to jokes in Reader’s Digest (the jokes paid better). His six and a half published books include four John Smyth murder mysteries and one other, stand-alone novel. In his spare time, he operates Mill Lake Books, a small publishing imprint. His website is www.coggins.ca
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