13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. 1 Peter 2:13-17
I was talking to a friend today about the President and I started to use a derogatory word to describe what I think of his relative suitability for the job. The word begins with “i” and rhymes with “literate” but means pretty much the opposite. It’s not a “bad word” nor does it belong in the category of swearing, but the Spirit checked me on it and I remembered that Jesus told us not to label people with insulting words.
There are good reasons for this, but it’s not always easy to find something to compliment about some people. I’m still in hunt for a complimentary way to refer to our President. If I really apply myself, four years should be sufficient to find one.
“Honor the position,” preached Tony Evans, “even when you can’t honor the person.” Disagreeing doesn’t give us the right to dishonor. Though it’s common the world wide to refer to a person in political office by their last name only––Bush, Obama, Trump. It’s never really sounded right to me. So, unless I slip, now that he’s been elected, for me it’s “Mr. Trump” or “President Trump.” I confess that sometimes it makes me feel a little nauseous, but I’m getting used to it.
So, anyway I decided to recant and rephrase my comment. Instead of attacking the man’s character or denigrating him as a person, I backed up into expressing my profound displeasure with the results of the election and how, in my opinion, unfit he is to hold our nation’s highest office.
Criticism, correction, and debate––and in my opinion––even peaceful protest, are all legitimate reactions to Mr. Trump’s relative capabilities. It’s the denigration of humans that offends God and lowers us to the level ––if not below the level––of those we hope to put down.
These days name-calling and propagandizing flies from mouths to ears to mouths and on to other ears like a flu virus sickening anyone willing to inhale it. No one is immune to this highly infectious airborne virus. To keep from being infected we have to be proactive and take defensive measures. We have to protect ourselves and others by breathing through the filter God’s Love Letter and strengthen our immune system with what it says about humans stamped with his image.
A lot of people sound like they take their mudslinging cues on how to win friends and influence people from the tabloids and their television and radio counterparts, where insulting streams of invectives overflow all civilized banks. Though we’ve come to expect this sort of juvenile behavior from politicians (some more than others) and pundits, what’s up with supposed followers of Jesus engaging in such libelous labeling?
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? James 3
In my 3-post series called “The Libel of Labels” I said such things as:
- Labeling is the arrogant practice of the small minded and tiny hearted.
- Labeling hurts the labeler as much as the labeled.
- Labeling is an easy way to intimidate people and bring conversations to a premature conclusion.
- It’s particularly libelous when we mislabel someone, intentionally or not.
- The most common manufacturers of labels are the twins, fear and anger.
I refuse to pout for the next four years. I choose rather to focus on national issues that affect humans and not on the person framing those issues. Mr. Trump is our President, chants and placards that state otherwise notwithstanding. I take the Scripture seriously. Every human deserves some respect, if for nothing else, just for bearing the divine image, even if the image is severely blurred. Plus, we’re told to give special honor to those in authority, yes, and to those about whom something honorable is as hard to find as a parking place in San Francisco! It exists; you just have to circle the block, if not the entire city, until one opens up.
It’s my prerogative to disagree, to debate, but not disrespect or denigrate. I may even be angry as hell, but my conscience won’t let me hate the man. “Be angry, but don’t sin…” (Ephesians 4)
I’m sure this is one of two reasons we’re told to pray for our leaders (1 Timothy 2), so that the Spirit can remind us to love and forgive them, and hope for the best without having to say the worst. So, most days I pray for Mr. Trump. It not only helps me not call him names, but makes me feel like I’m doing something constructive to patch the gaping hole that’s taking in water.
“I love America more than any other country in this world,” said James Baldwin, “and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” Right on! But criticism need not be abusive, not for the Jesus follower. In fact, if it is, not only will insulting language be ineffective, it displeases the Lord.
“Do not be too quick to assume that your enemy is an enemy of God just because he is your enemy. Perhaps he is your enemy precisely because he can find nothing in you that gives glory to God.” Thomas Merton
BTW, have you read my book? I don’t hardly use any bad words at all.