By Dr. Foster H. Shannon
“But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the counsel and whoever says “You fool” shall be liable to the hell of fire.” ~ Matthew 5:22
It appears to me that the above section of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, gets little attention. Anger leads to harm, and we should keep it under control, lest we say and do things that we will later regret. When Jesus said, “You fool”, he could have said “You idiot”, “You moron”, “You are stupid!”.
I have been watching with dismay the candidates for the Republican and Democratic nominations insulting one another. Virtually all of them claim to be Christians! Many years ago, President Lyndon Johnson, said something like this: “I do not think that my audience is interested in my opinion of my opponents.” Surely all of the candidates do much better if they tell us what they believe, what they disbelieve, and what they would do if elected President.
Do we sink to the level of calling other people disparaging names, when we disagree with what they do or say? I am not saying that we should not offer criticisms of people, whom we see doing wrong or of ideas that we recognize as fallacious. But calling them names does little good—and can produce considerable harm. Please understand that I do not look favorably on Political Correctness. It is an excessive effort to avoid imagined speech that might possibly discourage or hurt someone else. It is a significant threat to freedom of speech, which implies that we are not to punish people for saying things that we dislike. Indeed, Political Correctness is aimed at Christianity, that Christians should keep silent about their beliefs.
What should we do? God has given us the power of reason, to discern between good and bad. If we object to what someone has said or done, we should be able to explain it. Calling names is just a lazy way of neglecting the process of reason. We understand that almost everyone insults others, whether present or absent. But the behavior of the majority is not necessarily the indication of what is right! I have to tell you, that thinking about this matter is going to make me more careful in how I express myself regarding others, including those with whom I strongly disagree.
There is another side to criticism, and that is commendation and recognition of the good that someone else does. There are few of us who would not be helped by an encouragement or a word of thanks. God gives us wonderful words of encouragement in the Bible:
“We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.” ~ Romans 8:28
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. ~ Psalm 103:2-5
“Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in him, If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” ~ John 8:31, 32