Lesson 8: Violent Language

If faith assumes the transforming power of love, then the question becomes, “Where do we begin to overcome violence?” It’s not hard to know how Jesus answers. He always advises beginning with yourself. It’s also probably safe to think he would counsel starting with what you say. The power of words is central to his thought.

The Sermon on the Mount contains a critical passage:

You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder”; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.” 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. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first, be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. Matthew 5: 21-26

Jesus claims murder starts with anger. Overcoming violence depends on controlling your anger. One of the following paragraphs in the chapter is about not retaliating. It could be read as refusing to return anger for anger nips murder in the bud.

Overcoming then is not to beat but to transform the other person, not to judge but to build up. That means having enough self-respect to respond to insults with grace, to still respect the other as a child of God.

Certainly, a central teaching of Christianity is recognizing we cannot control all other people, but we can refuse to allow them to control us.

Obviously, we face a tremendous problem when one of our most popular politicians constantly uses violent language. He pumps up his loyalists by making fun of people. Mockery, name-calling, and ridicule are his primary tools. He regularly calls people fools, literally what Jesus warned against.

In the past, most of us were careful about avoiding violent language in public conversation. That filter is no longer regarded as necessary. And it could be argued this has led to more violent actions in our society.

The peace that the Christian faith offers overcomes violence by granting security that enables self-control rather than anger. That, at least, is a beginning.

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1 Enlightened Reply

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  1. paul wildman says:

    well put Fritz that peace is something to die for! cheers ciao paul ps this is a great lesson with direct pack and takes for our daily lives IMO ppss i have sent this around here in Austrlaia


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