Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Just because you act less than civil doesn’t make you an a**hole

I was raised in an environment where swearing was not welcome. My parents did not swear – as far as I know. People who came into our home did not swear, or, if they did, they were told in no uncertain terms to not.

As a result, I, generally, do not swear and am uncomfortable around people who do.
I especially dislike obscenity being used to describe someone’s character. For instance, referring to someone as an a**hole, d**k, and so on.

It’s more than heartbreaking to hear this kind of foul language used as a dehumanizing attack on another person, whether they are a believer or not.

It’s wrong for unbelievers and hellishly wrong for those who call themselves Christ followers.

Attacking them is attacking God

When we insult another person, whether they are Christians or not, we are insulting the image of God in which we all were created.

Genesis declares clearly, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

While sin mars, blurs, and distorts this God-ness inherent in all people, it is not negated. As a result, especially for Christians who embrace their Creator and claim to have Christ living in them via the Holy Spirit, being respectful toward everyone is an inherent expectation.

Being valued as a God-created person is practically a divine right. To disparage another’s character in a dehumanizing way is to insult the Creator who made them.

We are what we speak

The Bible is very clear that foul, obscenity-laced language is not acceptable for those who call themselves Christians. And as Luke makes clear, we are what we speak:
  • Matthew 12:36-37, NIV: “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned."
  • Matthew 15:18-20, NIV: But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean.' For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man 'unclean'; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him 'unclean.'"
  • Luke 6:45, NIV: “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”
  • Ephesians 4:29, NIV: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
  • Ephesians 5:1-5, NIV: “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God."
  • Colossians 3:8, NIV: “But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.”
All body parts are holy

In 1 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul offers an amazing metaphor to help us better understand Christian community in the context of a living body:
  1. The body is one unit, made up of many parts: “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ” (1 Cor. 12:12, NIV).
  2. The parts are assigned their role by God: “But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be” (1 Cor. 12:18, NIV).
  3. All parts of the body are honorable and important: “But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other” (1 Cor. 12: 24b-25, NIV).
  4. If one part suffers, all parts suffer: “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Cor. 12:26, NIV).
  5. All believers are part of the Body: “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Cor. 12:27, NIV).
As a kid, when we heard sermons on this passage, we would giggle and titter as we wondered about how butts and other intimate body parts, male and female, fit into this metaphor. Surely, we thought, the anus (aka a**hole) did not deserve the same respect as other parts of the body, whether physical or spiritual.

We were wrong.

God knew exactly what he was doing when he made us. Without a properly functioning anus, life would not be as tolerable. Just ask anyone who has to use a colostomy bag.

Murder by words

Jesus puts the matter of name-calling bluntly into the context of murder saying, "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell” (Matthew 5:21-22, NIV).

If you think just avoiding obscene slurs lets you off the hook when slandering someone, think again. The word “raca” implies that a person is senseless or empty headed. Basically, it’s the same as calling someone an idiot, jerk, dumb-head, and so forth.

In Jesus’ statement, twice he makes it clear that Christians (aka brothers, or siblings, in the Lord) are not to call other Christians names. He then goes further, and broadens this to “anyone.”

Love your enemies and shut your mouth

So, the bottom-line is this.
  • No foul or obscene language is acceptable coming from a Christian (or anyone else).
  • Calling people names is to insult the image of God inherent in all people and is an attempt to dehumanize them.
  • We are called to imitate God by unconditionally loving our enemies, and others, in both deed and word.
Thinking of others or calling them such things as stupid, a**holes, jerks, and so on means we are not living up to God’s expectations of us. It makes us less than attractive and damages the Kingdom of God.

While people – like you and me – behave badly from time to time, no one deserves to be labeled an a**hole. Period.


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