Words have great power. They can harm and heal.

Consider what the author of the Book of Proverbs says about the tremendous power that words have over the human heart:

Proverbs 12:25 Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good word maketh it glad.

Proverbs 15:23 A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it!

Proverbs 25:11 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.

Not only the Book of Proverbs, but the whole Bible is obviously full of words. It is the big, central words that matter most. Words like justice, peace, truth, and love. These words speak to us about how we ought to live.

There is another big, central word in the Bible that we don't use so much in ordinary speech: the word grace. It doesn't mean elegance. It means free, undeserved, unmerited love. This is the love that God has for a sinful world. We do not earn it; it is there before we ever thought about it.

Here's an illustration of grace. There were two big churches in Victorian London. The preachers were Mr Charles and Mr Joseph. Mr Charles' church ran an orphanage. One day, Mr Joseph commented on the poor condition of children admitted to the orphanage. It was reported to Mr Charles, however, that Mr Joseph had criticized the orphanage itself. So Mr Charles blasted Mr Joseph the next week from the pulpit.

The attack was printed in the newspapers and became the talk of the town. People flocked to Mr Joseph's church the next Sunday to hear how he would respond. He said: "I understand that Mr Charles is not in his pulpit today, and this is the Sunday when they take an offering for the orphanage. I suggest we take an offering for the orphanage here instead." The crowd was delighted. A huge offering was collected.

Later that week there was a knock at Mr Joseph's door. It was Mr Charles. "You know, Mr Joseph," he said, "you have practiced grace on me. You have given me not what I deserved; you have given me what I needed."

That is grace: being given, not what we deserve, but what we need. It is a big, central word in the Bible. In Jesus Christ, God's grace streams out to us. We do not deserve His love, but we need it, and in Christ crucified He gives it. And when we receive it, we become full of grace to others.