Resurrected Living
"What are you going to do with your new resurrected life? This is the heroic question." Richard Rohr

Thinking Rightly of Others

“For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.” (James 3:7-9)

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” (Matthew 5:43-46)

How we speak of others matters. It matters online and offline. It matters for people we know and people we don’t know. It matters for people we like and people we don’t like. Inappropriate comments directed at others often stem from problems with how we think. James alludes to this in James 3:9 when he says we sometimes use our mouth to praise God and curse people made in the image of God. We easily forget that every human being is an image bearer. Instead, we think of people as the world thinks of them. We see them as evil or enemies. We see them as less than human or having nothing to do with God. When we divorce people from goodness, humanity, or God, then it is easy for us to treat them however we like.

One way our thinking of others is altered is through the use of images. The images we find of people and groups online can be quite extreme. Politicians become caricatures that people continuously mock and ridicule. There are even times when violence is committed against such images.

Although most of us would never consider sharing a violent image of someone else, we do use images to portray groups we don’t like in negative ways. When choosing pictures to represent a group that opposes our values, we typically use unfavorable images rather than favorable ones. We choose the fringe member of a group who has little in common with the group as a whole to be the face of the group. This is because it is much easier to argue against someone who is extreme and unreasonable than it is to argue against someone who is normal and reasonable. 

We choose unfavorable images and caricatures to represent people and groups with whom we disagree because our motives are wrong. The goal of most online discussions is to win or to destroy the other side. These are not Christian goals for interactions with others. Instead, our goals should be to love and understand. Even if someone is my enemy, I am to love them, not seek to destroy them. When we have the right goals, our treatment of others will be more kind and just. 

Our unfair treatment of others goes beyond images. We like to jump to extremes in discussions as well. If someone says “black lives matter” then they are automatically a Marxist. If someone refuses to see racism in every situation, then they are automatically a white supremacist. It doesn’t matter that most people fighting for racial equality are not Marxists, and most people who don’t find racism wherever they look are not white supremacists. Again, we do this because we have the wrong motives. It is not fair. It is not right, and it is certainly not helpful.

Most conversations nowadays demand nuance. This means the memes people like to share often do more damage than good. They might be funny to you and a few friends, but they do not further the conversation. Instead, we need to show patience and kindness in our discussions. We need to always assume the best unless we know otherwise. We need to refrain from jumping to conclusions and make a habit of asking for clarification. We need to commit to peacemaking. This doesn’t mean we will always agree, but it does mean we will value relationships over opinions.

How we think matters because what we think will be revealed in what we say and do. It will be evident if we are trying to dominate and conquer others or if we are loving and caring for them. Every person has been stamped with the image of God and it is our duty to love them. God desires peace and reconciliation, not division. It is our duty to encourage people to draw closer to God, not to drive them away. It is because of this, we need to make sure we are thinking rightly of others.

One Response to “Thinking Rightly of Others”

  1. Great points in this much needed message that we cannot share enough. 👏

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