Our tendency is to avoid hearing hard words. We tolerate plenty of profane words. We don’t mind trading rhetorical blows of biting words, or watching the “food fight” of political & media blow-hards. But we shield ourselves against hard words.
But hard words soften hard hearts. The Law is a hard word: promising blessing for obedience but disastrous curses for disobedience (Deut. 28). The Lord’s words about it being easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom, were hard words (Mk. 10:25-26). The prophets spoke many hard words: “[…] this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD (Is. 30:9).”
The flesh wants to be confirmed in all its lies. But God’s Word is like solid beams of light, and we are like the morning vapor. Instead of leaving us in a habitation of lying, soothing words, God calls us here. The church is where we’re invited to hear God’s Word proclaimed. The church fails when she opts for words which have all the substance of cotton candy, or chants slogans which won’t ruffle any feathers, or tiptoes around the topics which could mean losing tax exempt status.
These hard words which the church is commissioned to proclaim, are the words we need to hear. Forgive seventy times seven (Mt. 18:22). Let go of your grudge and make it right (Jas. 5:9). If you and your girlfriend have been sexually immoral, flee youthful lusts (2 Tim. 2:22). Work hard rather than expecting to live off of government or charity handouts (2 Thes. 3:10).
The hard word of the Gospel is this: you are sinner under God’s just wrath, so repent, and turn to Christ. This hard word makes for soft hearts that can receive the sweet words of promise: “him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out (Jn. 6:37).”