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There is a phenomenon in this modern day that has continued to amaze me. Go to any of the social media outlets and you find on the average, that a high number of people who engage in name-calling also have large followership. Many folks love the former President because he does not hesitate to call names whenever he feels like it. In fact, the trend seems to suggest that name-calling is a virtue. In fact, what I have noticed is that one’s religious orientation is not a barrier to name-calling. I have seen several arguments by Christian leaders that suggest that nothing is wrong with calling people names, after all, they argue, Jesus did it and John the Baptist did it. If it is that bad, then our Lord Jesus would not have done it. The argument is that those who engage in name-calling are those who do not mind calling a spade, a spade. They claim they are the harbinger of truth just as our Lord Jesus Christ is truth personified.
The folks who argue that name-calling is a virtue rest their argument on the actions of our Lord Jesus Christ recorded in Matthew 23. In that chapter alone Christ had called the scribes and Pharisees many names including hypocrites (vs 13, 14), child of hell (vs 15), blind guides (vs 16), blind fools (17), snakes, brood of vipers (vs 33), whited sepulchers (27). Jesus Christ called the religious leaders of the day these names because indeed that was what they were. The point that should made be however is that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who knows all and can do all. He is Holy, He is perfect. The word of God tells us that He now sits on the right-hand side of God where He will judge the living and the dead. He has every authority on earth and in heaven. How about us? We do not know all, we are not perfect, and we have only limited authority. So where do we get the authority to call people broods of vipers or hypocrites the way He did?
When we call people names, most of the time it is the pot calling the kettle black. We tend to justify a lot of things we do by saying Jesus Christ did the same thing. Are we Jesus? Jesus turned over the tables of the money changers in the temple and chased them out with a whip. While we can point out things we believe are not being done the right way, we do not have the authority to act in such authoritatively judgmental ways when we are not much better than the folks our actions are directed at. The crust of the Word of our Lord Jesus Christ to us is that we should be more concerned about our own fallen, broken, and sinful states; and get ourselves fixed first before we make attempts at fixing other people.
Our Lord Jesus Christ was very clear about things we are to and things we should not do. Matthew 7:1-2 says we should not judge, otherwise we will be judged the same way we judge others. Simply translated, if we call people names, then we will be called names too. The Word of our Lord Jesus Christ rings loud and clear in Matthew 5:22, “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell”. Christ is expressly forbidding His followers here from calling names. Saying “Raca” to someone is akin to calling the person an “idiot” or “fool” or “empty head”. Where do we then find the idea that calling names is a virtue? “Jesus did it” is not a good enough argument because Jesus is God, and we are not. He has given us His instructions on how we are to act, our responsibilities as His followers are to obey His commands. His words to us are to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31) and to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). When we try to justify our own actions by alluding that Jesus did the same, it is the height of mischief.
Is name-calling a virtue? I believe not. Our virtue should be living according to the revealed Word of God as recorded in the Holy Book. God’s words to us are “to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone” – Titus 3:2. May the Lord help us to obey His words.
November 14, 2021 – Pastor Simbo Odunaiya