Do you realize that you currently have a sword in your chest? Sounds uncomfortable, doesn’t it?
Actually it’s quite normal to have this kind of sword in our chests, and most of the time it doesn’t hurt at all. I’m talking about a small bony structure located at the base of the sternum. In anatomical terms it’s called the xiphoid process. In children and young adults it is made of cartilage, but over time it ossifies and in mature adults it hardens like a bone. The xiphoid process functions to support your diaphragm and anchor your abdominal muscles. The name of this helpful little body part comes from the Greek xiphos, which means “sword,” because the xiphoid process is shaped like a sword and the bottom tip of the bony structure resembles a sharpened blade. Biologically you do have a sword in your chest!
Psychologically we have to deal with a different kind of sharp object in our chests: the conscience. When God designed human beings in his own image he gave us the capacity to distinguish right from wrong. Because of the moral law within, our consciences accuse and defend us (Romans 2:15). Native Americans compared the conscience to a triangle with three sharp points. According to this analogy, when we violate our conscience the triangle turns, causing the points to jab our hearts. The problem is, if we ignore the conscience long enough, the points become worn down and we no longer feel their jab. In a world where “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), the conscience alone isn’t a sufficient guide. The Bible warns us to watch out for misguided teachers “whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:2).
That’s why we need another kind of sword in our chests: “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). Like a surgeon’s scalpel God’s truth can cut us “to the heart” (Acts 2:37), shaping, honing, and sharpening our consciences so they remain sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading.
Selfishly I don’t always want to serve others, but the sword of the Spirit pokes my conscience and says, “Go the extra mile.” Pride gets in the way and makes me hold onto an old grudge, but the sword of the Spirit reminds me that Jesus said to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). Self-righteous indignation makes us view others with hostility and disdain, but the Spirit’s sharp blade prods us to remember Paul’s words, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
Scripture not only guides our hearts individually; it also shapes our relationships with others. It moves us to be more gracious and less demanding, more loving and less spiteful, more gentle and less harsh. It guides us in reconciling differences, resolving conflicts, and setting priorities that help us “be devoted to one another in love” and “honor one another” above ourselves (Romans 12:10).
Christians aren’t perfect, but we’re forgiven. By God’s grace we can learn to forgive others, too—if we remember that we have a sword in our chests.
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Lesson study ©2018, Christian Standard Media. Print and digital subscribers are permitted to make one print copy per week of lesson material for personal use. Lesson based on International Sunday School Lesson, ©2013, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.