The Apostle Paul was on trial before a religious council. He declared that he had lived his life before God in good conscience. The Jewish High Priest, Ananias, did not believe him and ordered that they slap his mouth for the offensive “lie.” Paul, not knowing that it was the High Priest who ordered the smiting, became critical of the High Priest, derogatorily calling him a “whited wall.” When he was informed that he had insulted the High Priest, Paul apologized, citing Exodus 22:28, which commanded the Jews not to speak evil of their rulers. If that law was in effect in the United States today, the internet would practically be free of political discussion. The news media would have little to report.
My heart breaks over the way we treat our fellow man today. That does not mean that we cannot object to the ideas of others or that we all need to hug each other while singing Kumbaya, but that when being critical of a position or thought or policy of another, that we criticize those things and not the person. I find it disgusting when a title of an internet post begins, “So and so DESTROYS so and so in 2 minutes…”
Why is it that we think we have the right to be cruel to others? Let me suggest a couple of reasons. First, we have reduced the nature of man to being equal to that of an animal. Often, people will speak of our “animal instincts” or we call someone a “party animal.” The really sad thing is that all too often people respect animals more than they do humans. Man before God is of infinitely greater value than any animal.
But that brings me to a second reason. Man’s value before God is based on the fact that God created man in His own image and likeness. Such a statement was never made concerning the animal kingdom. The biblical sanctity of life is based upon man being created in that image and likeness. In effect, how we treat others is a reflection of our respect for God. But, then, if you believe that man was not created, then of necessity he was not created in God’s image and likeness, and, therefore, it seems reasonable that you can do whatever you desire to another.
A third reason for our inhumanity towards humanity emerges from the second. We understand that we were created by God on the authority of biblical revelation. Years ago, most people recognized the Bible as the Word of God. We may not have agreed as to exactly what it taught, but most people referred to it as the “Good Book,” respecting what it contained. For the most part, the idea of biblical authority is a thing of the past. Generally today, when the teaching of Scripture opposes the ideas of man, man chooses to ignore God and follow human “wisdom.”
This then leads to a fourth reason. We are instructed in the New Testament to pray for those who are in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-4). Beyond that, we are commanded to “honor the king” (1 Peter 2:17). Of course, if the Bible is not authoritative, then there is no need to be obedient to these commands. And having no respect for divine authority, we seek to change the world by our own efforts. After all, what can prayer do? Most people today have no idea that Scripture states that the king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord (Proverbs 21:1).
It’s time we stop all the derogatory language against those with whom we do not agree and speak respectfully. Without respect for others, we will never solve anything.