You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
Matthew 5: 21-22
Reflection – It seems to me that I just blogged about this passage last week. Oh well, I suppose we can all stand to be bathed in this light of faith a little more intensely in our times.
We live in a world that is awash with anger. We live in a world where people think nothing whatsoever of hurling the most serious accusations possible at other people with little to no evidence, little to no justification. We live in a world where everyone is a pundit, and every pundit has an inalienable right to opinionate on the moral standing and personal merit of every other pundit and every public figure.
We live in a world where being angry with one another, calling one another scoundrel or fool is the dead norm of human intercourse. And this is directly opposed to the Gospel. We are not to hurl abuse at one another, but to treat each human being with love and with respect, even when we are in deep disagreement with their words or actions.
I must admit that, as I type this, I am so aware of how utterly at variance this is with our modern mentality that I am just slightly despairing of this post making any difference to anyone's thinking on the matter (of course my blog is a pretty small potatoes affair anyhow). When we behold someone advocating, say, late-term abortions (or any abortions) or torturing of terrorists, or same-sex marriage or (if we’re on the other side of that issue) the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage, it is our automatic tendency to say, ‘Well, I don’t respect that person, and I don’t love them. They’re horrible!’ And have at it with the anger-renegade-fool symphony.
I guess we have to decide if we’re disciples of Jesus or not. Because he says not to do that, not to give into that, and if we’re his disciples we have to at least try to obey him, right?
And the truth is, we can actually get a lot further presenting our positions and arguing for the rightness of our views if we remain calm and avoid name-calling. It doesn’t actually help change anyone’s minds to be called ‘scum’ or ‘idiot’ or ‘bigot’ or insert term of abuse here. Such flinging of abuse is really self-indulgent, a letting loose of our own pique, a relieving of our stress and frustration. It serves no good purpose.
And avoiding abuse-flinging does not make us wimpy and weak in our arguments, either. You can argue that abortion is murder, and that therefore those who commit abortion are committing murder, and are thus ‘murderers’, without thereby calling them scoundrels or idiots. I presume that medical professionals who do abortions actually believe they are doing a good thing, hard as that is for me to swallow. To point out that they are, factually, destroying a human life (a matter of indisputable scientific fact) and that this action of ending a human life by violent means (the human being in question is killed by being dismembered) is normally termed ‘murder’ is strong language, and yet is offered here dispassionately and without any impugning of bad motive or stupidity on the part of those who do not accept it.
Being a disciple of Jesus calls us to a great discipline of our inner being, to manage our anger and our aggression, our tendency to reduce the other person to an object of scorn or contempt, someone to be attacked or mocked or destroyed. We have to fight against this strong impulse in our humanity, so prevalent in the land today, and take dead seriously the call of Christ to love our enemies and to uphold the dignity and inherent value of every human being He has made, whom He loves, and whom He died for.