Matthew 5:22 (NRSV)
“But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.”
Yikes. Jesus is throwing down in our scripture verse today. You get angry, insult, and name call you have some ‘splain’ to do. Jesus says “liable to the fires of hell”. That sure sounds like the opposite of good.
This scripture of course is pulled from the sermon on the Mount and if you are keeping record-comes right after Jesus is talking about murder. Preaching on murder and sliding right into name calling?
Jesus, in this powerful bit of teaching, is reminding us how quickly things can escalate.
You start out angry at someone and before you know it you start saying things you either don’t mean or wouldn’t normally say and then you drop words that can’t be unsaid.
You ever do that? Say something you couldn’t unsay? The words floated off your tongue only to create a divide between you and the other person the size of the Grand Canyon? I know that I have and I am guessing you all have gone to at least some point of that slippery slope Jesus is describing in his powerful sermon.
Here’s one: Can you think of places where we have created space for this type of nonsense to be ok?
What about social media like Twitter or Facebook?
You ever get into a political argument that turned personal on Facebook or Twitter or by email? You no longer are talking about the issue you started debating but the person you are debating with?
There’s a story about Justine Sacco, she was a PR director at InterActiveCorp (IAC), posted a tweet in December of 2013 to Twitter shortly before an 11-hour flight from London to Cape Town, South Africa. Her tweet was 12 words. “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t’ get Aids. Just kidding. I’m white!” She powered down her phone and rested on the overnight flight.
While she flew the internet destroyed her. What started out as name calling and mockery turned to calls for her to lose her job-which she did.
On her solitary 11-hour flight, without any idea of what was happening, she became one of the most hated internet twitter users jumping from obscurity to having gone viral in hours.
In an interview long after she lost her job, she told the reporter she was making a statement about westerners privilege and the “bubble” we live in and claimed she was not trying to be racist but it didn’t matter. She posted 12 poorly judged words that cost her job, reputation, and respect in an entire industry. She was after all in Public Relations.
What started as justified anger at the offensive tweet; quickly turned into rage and sport and brutal name calling. For many twitter users it became this disassociated person that took on a life of its own trying to outdo the previous tweet. Her company had no choice but to distance themselves from her before she could even explain or defend herself.
Racism is the worst kind of hate and I am sure that is something we can all agree on. The twitter users were right to be offended by her comments-AID’s is a global epidemic but ravages the continent of Africa. Whether she actually intended her tweet to be a satire or a reflection of her beliefs only she will truly know. What she said was unacceptable and while she probably should have lost her job as the public relations director- I am sure for most of the people caught up in destroying Justine it was hardly even about being offended. I encourage you to google this story, read the twitter feed, and see if you can find when it stopped being about the actual comment and more about the sport.
Jesus calls on us to be better than that. To engage each other and work it out. The next verses following, Jesus is explaining we must reconcile with each other, settle matter quickly, and do it before it escalates.
We must make peace with our anger because, as the anonymous quote says, it’s like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies. Here’s the deal: they don’t but we do. It poisons our souls, our hearts, and our minds. We say and do things we may otherwise have never considered.
If you have unresolved anger or hurt towards others I hope you consider working out with the person who offended or hurt you. While their actions may not be justified you may learn there is more to the story that you considered. Perhaps in working through your matter, as Jesus states, you can settle the hurt, miscommunication, or offense and release the poison before it escalates in you.
May it be so,
Rev. Lou Ward
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