With the impending inauguration, the country is reminded of the division within our nation. As we witnessed the debates and rhetoric leading up to the election, we were exposed to character attacks rather than the defense of proposed policies.
Insults have become the easy way to debase a person's ideas. Rather than point out deficiencies in the opposed philosophy, one can ridicule the person making the argument. If we lose respect for a person because they are now embarrassed or seen as foolish, their arguments seem less sound. It is far easier and takes less thought to point out a person's physical flaws than to show why their ideas wouldn't be helpful.
No one political party has a monopoly on insults or insulting behavior.
And while it does seem that we are degenerating in our discourse, the tendency toward public insults seems to enjoy a cyclical life. In fact if you examine the election of 1800, the supporters of two of the founding fathers, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, could sling the mud with the best of them!
As we continue with the Sermon on the Mount during the season of Epiphany, we are now at Matthew 20:21-26. Within this pericope, we see Jesus taking on the unholy trinity of anger, insults and grudges.
The consequences for violating these seem dire. No one wants to be thrown into prison and yet Jesus seems to be indicating that anger, insults and grudges create a prison of their own.
When I do premarital counseling, I always try to advise the couple to "fight fair". This includes forbidding yourselves to insult each other during an argument. Anyone can set a line we do not cross and keep to it. After all, we do it in public all the time. We can (not so) easily translate it into our private lives. When you are trying to live out your life with another human being, to degrade that person becomes a tearing down of the self in a way because you are yoked together.
What if we kept this advice for all of our interactions?
If you are in a disagreement with someone, be persuasive rather than demeaning. Both of you will be lifted up by your example.
This Sunday, we will examine this passage in worship together at 8:30, 10:50 and 11 am. If you are in town and healthy (and attend FUMC Edmond), I will take it as a personal affront if you aren't at one of those services! (Okay, being slighted too easily is another sermon for another time.)
To read more from Sam, visit http://precedinggrace.blogspot.com.
Photo via Flickr.com, used under the Creative Commons license.