When was the last time someone threw an insult at you? Was it deserved? Not a possibility one would wish to encourage! How about putting the shoe on the other foot: have you ever insulted someone else, deliberately or otherwise?
I’m sure that most of us try to steer clear of insulting others, and hopefully also of earning insults for ourselves. However, one doesn’t have to look too far to see that some people seem driven towards confrontation. My skin creeps when I see demonstrators at the Oscars waving placards that read ‘God hates fags’ or ‘You’re going to Hell.’ These statements aren’t just insulting, the first is untrue, the second uncertain. They’re the kinds of words practically guaranteed to start arguments. And they’re the kinds of words practically guaranteed to incur a whole slew of inventive and destructive combinations of words by way of response. Is this kind of communication ‘Christian’?
Scanning the Bible, I find no ethical grounds whatsoever for the verbal abuse of others, though there are certainly places where people were sharp with their words. The prophet Elijah used sarcasm to taunt the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:27) and Jesus almost certainly offended two groups of religious leaders by describing them collectively as a “brood of vipers” (Matt. 3:7). Elijah was falsely labelled a ‘troubler of Israel’ (1 Kings 18:17) but I am most interested in the sorts of insults thrown at Jesus. What did people who didn’t like him say about him?
There is at least one insult Jesus received which he actually earned, prefaced though it is by lies. It is this: “friend of sinners.” In Luke 7:34, Jesus himself reports some of the insults in circulation concerning him: ‘The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ Jesus was not a glutton or a drunkard but he was a friend of tax collectors and sinners.
I don’t know about you, but that’s an insult to aspire to. To be blameless with regard to things that harm others and guilty with regard to things that bless is a rule to live your life by. If it were true for all of us, the world would be a different place.