Christ’s definition of violent rhetoric

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free
Female mouth on TVphoto © 2006 Steven Straiton | more info (via: Wylio)

As the conversation turns to the state of our nation’s political discourse, let’s remember that as followers of Jesus, we should make this a time of reflection and repentance rather than finger-pointing, for Christ’s definition of violent rhetoric holds us to the highest possible standards: 

"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire. (Matthew 5:21-22) 

Eugene Peterson in The Message, summarizes the passage this way: 

You're familiar with the command to the ancients, 'Do not murder.' I'm telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother 'idiot!' and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell 'stupid!' at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill.

I don’t know about you, but this leaves me painfully, unequivocally guilty. 

I’ve dismissed certain political figures as “fools.” 

I’ve labeled certain pundits and talk show hosts “idiots.” 

I’ve been angry at friends and family members who don’t see things exactly the way that I see them. 

In the pursuit of temporal things—better blog stats, more praise, a fleeting sense of superiority, a laugh—I’ve left some carnage in my wake, and for that I humbly repent. 

According to the Talmud, the sin of loshon hara (“evil talks”) kills three people: the one who speaks it, the one who hears it, and the one about whom it is told. 

How ironic that we worry that our cruel words might incite violence when the violence has already occurred.

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