For the past month, I have done something different to conduct a nonscientific and informal study…I have actually paid attention to the common insults doled out to me during conversations about a variety of topics. The insults I will address here have come when I have simply articulated the position of the church, and not just my own opinion. So, on with the not at all scientific examination of things said.
First, and most common is “Pharisee”. According to William Barclay, the Talmud describes seven different types of Pharisees which I will list here.
- The Shoulder Pharisee, who wore all his good deeds and righteousness on his shoulder for everyone to see.
- The Wait-a-Little Pharisee, who always intended to do good deeds, but could always find a reason for doing them later, not now.
- The Bruised or Bleeding Pharisee, who was so holy that he would turn his head away from any woman seen in public – and was therefore constantly bumping into things and tripping, thus injuring himself.
- The Hump-Backed Pharisee, who was so humble that he walked bent over and barely lifting his feet – so everyone could see just how humble he was.
- The Always-Counting Pharisee, who was always counting up his good deeds and believed that he put God in debt to him for all the good he had done.
- The Fearful Pharisee, who did good because he was terrified that God would strike him with judgment if he did not.
- The God-Fearing Pharisee, who really loved God and did good deeds to please the God he loved.
As you can see, six of the seven are not particularly flattering. I am not certain what type of pharisee articulating the position of the church makes someone, but there you go.
Second, is “hard-hearted”. Oxford dictionaries defines it as follows: “Incapable of being moved to pity or tenderness; unfeeling”. There we go, pretty straight forward.
Third we have the ever popular “you hate gays”. This takes a couple of forms and sometimes uses LGBTQ or GLBTQI or other things mind you. I think this is fairly self explanatory. This is thrown around flippantly and most often, but the implications of what is being said are huge. 1 John 3:15 says “Whosoever hates his brother is a murderer and ye know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” (Jubilee translation just because it is under used) and in commenting on the verse, Wesley has this to say “He, I say, abideth in spiritual death, is void of the life of God. For whosoever hateth his brother, and there is no medium between loving and hating him, is, in God’s account, a murderer: every degree of hatred being a degree of the same temper which moved Cain to murder his brother. And no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him – But every loving believer hath. For love is the beginning of eternal life. It is the same, in substance, with glory.” That is a very serious accusation to make of someone, especially when they are simply articulating the teachings of the church.
Fourth are the insinuations that you must be a homosexual because you are talking about it. With this I will include the accusations of being obsessed with genitalia and other similarly unflattering statements.
The last I will mention is the most popular of them all “homophobic”. Oxford dictionaries has this for a definition “Dislike of, or prejudice against, homosexual people”. This sort of surprised me a bit ago when I looked it up as I was improperly thinking from the word it involved fear due to “phobia”.
Before I go further, let me be clear about something. There is a vast difference between saying “you are wrong”, “I disagree”, etc. and insulting. There are numerous methods and interpretations of scripture and we all believe that we have the right one after all. To use the tired idea, we can disagree without being disagreeable. This is not about disagreement.
There are of course more, most notably the improper use of accusations of judging people, but these give enough of an overview and understanding. So big deal right? Toughen up, have thicker skin and move on. I actually prescribe to that quite honestly. While I am not at all immune to having my feelings hurt of course, I simply choose not to allow strangers over a computer screen to have that sort of influence over me by and large, but this really is not about me, it is about something bigger than me. Before I go on, I am not the voice of the UMC, that is the General Conference. I do not represent the church in any official capacity. I do however represent the church whenever I speak it’s teachings. So does anyone, so this is not a unique thing to me. Whenever anyone articulates the position of the church, they represent her. When you insult that person, whomever it may be, you insult the church.
To use the common imagery, the church is the bride of Christ, and He will return for her. It is beautiful imagery, especially if you understand how engagement and marriage worked in the time of Christ, but that is another blog. No, she is not perfect, but she’s working on it. No, she’s not blameless, but she will be. What she is however, is preparing for her wedding day, and she is beautiful. Think on that for just a second, then realize that when a person is articulating the position of the church, and you insult them, you have insulted the church. You have insulted the bride of Christ. You have looked at the bride of your Lord as she prepares for her wedding and called her ugly. We would all do well to remember that.