Monday, May 27 2024 - 6:01 PM
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Words and Damages

I think it’s amazing how one can read scriptures numerous times, and suddenly a conviction arises. This morning I was reading the Beatitudes in the book of Matthew, particularly chapter 5:21-24. These are words from Jesus, words to live by, given to a crowd of people in Galilee as He started His ministry. The listeners (me) are warned about letting anger with one’s brother subject you to judgment or by calling someone a term of contempt, i.e., “idiot” or worse, resulting in your eternal destruction.

I read the verses in several versions of the Bible, and words jumped out at me. First of all, “brother.” I have to bring that right home since I understand that the man I married and live with is also considered my Christian brother. I am guilty on many occasions of becoming angry with my husband, whether he realizes it or not. Just the other day, in one of our misunderstandings, I actually called him a label! We are both aware that terms of contempt can quickly undermine relationships. Obviously, I still have lots of soul and spouse work ahead. I am thankful I married a forgiving person. Sigh.

Objectifying Humans

On the problem or issue of name-calling and harsh words, some of my most egregious faults are during times of encounters with law-breaking or selfish drivers. If someone is unidentified behind dark tint windows and buttressed in metal or is a stranger in electronic space, it is much easier to attach a label to their actions and intentions. These people also carry the imprint of God, and it’s easy to obliterate their value by objectifying them. That seems to be a dangerous first step that can lead to more serious thoughts and actions against “others.” We live in a culture that tends to accept and easily utilize humans’ labeling on social media, in entertainment, music, and print—everywhere we can read or hear. This easily seeps into our everyday language usage.

The scripture paraphrase that really speaks to me is in parts of Matthew 5:22, from The Remedy*: “…Anyone who is angry with another person damages their own character and is in danger of being diagnosed incurable…anyone who presumes to judge another’s motives, calling them ‘evil’ or ‘scoundrel,’ hardens their own heart and is in danger of eternal destruction.”

I am distressed about the hardening of my own heart and the damage to my character. The sins that Jesus addressed in Matthew or elsewhere amount to heart issues. And He knew that we could have 10 laws or many more laws, and those do not change hearts. Only love can do that. Jesus showed us respect, value, and hope for the future, promising indwelt guidance for living.

Reflecting God’s Character

It is a mistake to rationalize that I can remain strong and accurately reflect God’s character without regular time immersed in character healing habits. The values of the world are upon us, and Jesus is our clearest understanding of God. I can talk to Jesus and share my concerns about my husband, bad drivers, my own foolishness, and offer gratitude and requests. Also, I can read the scripture stories of how Jesus dealt with people and stories of godly people. I can practice being still and listening to God’s impressions. And I can share and discuss with other Christians, serve others in loving actions, spend time in nature, listen to uplifting music, and seek physical nourishment, exercise, and rest.

So I turn to more of Jesus’ words in John 15: 1-17. “If a [person] remains in me, and I in [them], [they]will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (Verse 5, NIV).

Questions for personal journaling or group discussion:

  1. Compare the verses in Matthew 5:21-24 with 1 John 3:11-24. Respond.
  2. Do you believe you can be angry with another person and not sin or harden your heart?
*The Remedy New Testament, expanded paraphrase in everyday English, by Timothy Jennings, M.D., 2016. Lennox Publishing, Chattanooga, TN.

If you liked this, you might also like Words Like Honey 

Karen Spruill writes from Florida.

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About Karen Spruill

Karen Spruill

writes from Orlando, Florida.

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