Words are strange things, and how we seem to treat them sometimes is even stranger. We say things like “talk is cheap” and “actions speak louder than words” even though you actually have to use words to convey that message. The latter may be true but the former certainly is not. If you say to someone that you love them, pay them a compliment, read them their favourite poem; their eyes light up and they smile. All you’ve done is use words. If you tell someone though that they’re broken, that they’re ugly and generally demean/abuse them, it can affect them for years if not their entire life. All you’ve done is use words.
It’s said that “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me” and it’s simply not the case as has been tragically shown in recent times . It’s no secret that the internet is not a model of decorum and respect when it comes to using words. Words like “trolls” are used as descriptions of some of it’s users, reflective of the often vitriolic content of their posts. Christians are called to love our neighbours, be gentle and respectful with our words for they are like fire , being on the internet does not give us a free pass. Jesus is synonymous with words like grace, peace, love, mercy. He teaches to love our enemies and the mouth speaks what the heart is full of (Luke 6:45). Yet Christians are synonymous with words like bigotry, homophobia, hatred, self-serving, hypocritical; I’ve taken abuse and insults from people but none hurt as much as the ones from brothers and sisters and Christ. According to some I’m:
- a heretic
- a blasphemer
- a fool
- a dangerous liberal
- simply dangerous
- sending people to hell
- going to hell
- a wolf in sheeps clothing
- not fit to work with youth or answer their questions
- a degenarate
- a counterfeit Christian
My crime? To disagree with them on interpretations of passages, nothing more. They may not seem much but these are heavy words to label a Christian, it calls into the question the very nature of the relationship with Christ. These are nothing compared to the hate that has been aimed at others. There’s clearly some disconnect between what Jesus is known for and what his followers are known for. “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians, your Christians are so unlike your Christ” says Ghandi; “You don’t even know Jesus” is the response of one Christian . As Jefferson Bethke suggests, if Jesus said what Christians believe the Bible would look very different . I’m just left asking whatever happened to the gentleness and respect? I admit I can be blunt at times, I’m not perfect here.
One word I’m thinking of not using is the word Christian when describing myself. As I’ve said above, the word Christian is now so far removed from it’s original meaning (follower of Christ) and now stands for the complete opposite, I don’t feel I can bring myself to use it any more. Jesus has been put so far out of reach he’s unknowable . I can’t do this though without feeling like I’m abandoning Jesus or turning my back on him. It does seem like throwing away something because it’s difficult (or in this case, seemingly broken), though other people have stopped using the word to describe themselves . If I decide to use the word Christian it will be to try and show that we’re not all like that.
Speaking of all not like that, the NALT campaign  has been ongoing for a while and they are still accepting video from Christians explaining where they’re not all like that. It’s specifically about showing that not all Christians are bigoted and homophobic and I’ve been thinking about doing a video for it myself. My slight fear of appearing on camera aside, I’ve decided not to do it for the very reason I’m pretty much speaking against; actions speak louder than words. I have a tendency to be oblivious to the consequences of what I’m doing so I may think I’m not like that, it’s possible I might so I will let others decide if I am or not.
Bottom line is be careful with your words, don’t throw them about mindlessly and always look to build people up.