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Speak no evil?

by | Mar 10, 2021 | James | 0 comments

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor. – James 4:11-12

Traditionally, public discourse was polite if not cordial, not so today. Challenging someone else’s view or opinion is one thing, but there’s often a fine line between correcting someone’s view or behavior and speaking words that reveal judgment. I think most of us recognize the difference especially when people resort to calling names! 

Some of us wince at being called names – worthless, stupid, ugly, fat, skinny, idiot, moron…Calling someone names reveals a sense of judgment. Instead of encouraging or teaching, we tear others down and that reveals much about us as well. Our name-calling puts us in the position of judge and usurps God’s authority.

In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminded us that “judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.”

Throughout James’ letter, he uses colorful language to illustrate his points. Some of his words cut to the heart of the problem, but he is not mean-spirited in his attitude and so he can speak to issues of his day of impartiality, lack of concern for others, and the danger of an unbridled tongue effectively.

Maybe we should consider our attitudes that are reflected in the words we say. Could it be that we are guilty of speaking evil against our brothers and sisters?


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