Tag Archives: attitudes

A Court Can Judge Actions, But Only God Judges Hearts

Being very suspicious of our own motives is wise. Not only are we not qualified to judge others, as we easily evaluate them too harshly, we often do a poor job of judging even ourselves, tending to give ourselves way too much slack. I’m trying to keep that in mind in what follows.

In the news recently was the report that someone painted a racial slur across the front gate of one of the homes of a famous athlete. For whatever difference it makes, which is none, this mansion is worth $21 million. Motive check: Is it possible I included that fact because I’m greedier or more covetous than I think I am? It’s more than possible that I can’t imagine a universe where anyone makes that much money for playing with a ball, even uncommonly well. But nobody should be spray-painting offensive words, graffiti, or anything else across anybody else’s home, shack, or mansion. Additional motive check: Does some insidious racism color the “hate crimes” opinion I’ll express below? I honestly don’t think so. (My dream presidential candidate is a woman of color.)

The sprayed-on word was a truly offensive racial epithet, a word that needs to go away forever. Of course, defacing someone’s property is already illegal, but I have two questions. Does the racist nature of the crime make it worse morally? Yes! That this sort of poisonous atrocity happens is disgraceful. Does the racist nature of the crime make it worse legally? It does. But, forgive me, I very much doubt that it should.

The incident is being investigated as a hate crime. Though that train, legally speaking, is already far down the track, I think it’s heading for a wreck that will hurt us all.

I did not say I advocate hate. Far from it. I didn’t say this crime wasn’t odious. I certainly didn’t say that many crimes already prosecuted as hate crimes, many far worse than this one, aren’t repugnant.

But defacement of property, vandalism, assault, rape, murder, etc., are already illegal. Conviction carries penalties, as it should. The whole idea, though, of a class of crimes and penalties that are worse because the perpetrator was thinking mean, nasty, hateful, and horrible thoughts, is a move in a frightening direction.

Who determines what constitutes a mean, nasty thought? Citizens in the old Soviet Union could find themselves locked up as “insane” if they expressed thoughts the government found unsuitable. In the United States, for all of our history (except for these days on college campuses), the right to free speech (and thought) has been a dearly-held blessing of the highest order. I may think your “speech” is horrible, vulgar, disgusting, and/or idiotic, but I hope I would be willing to suffer for your right to hold that position, even as I think you or society will pay a high price for such gravely mistaken ideas.

Crimes are already illegal. No government—however good, bad, or despotic—deserves to be trusted with the power to decide what constitutes hateful thinking. The consequences of giving the state that power are more than a little frightening.

It’s the state’s job to punish wrongdoers for criminal acts, not for hatred in their hearts. We can be sure, though, that the latter will not go unpunished. We can trust our God, the final Judge. He knows all of our thoughts, all of our motives. And Jesus has warned us all (read the Sermon on the Mount) that hatred or lust or greed will twist, imprison, and kill our souls a long time before we commit a hate-motivated crime.

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

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The Tongue Is a Powerful and Often Fiery Instrument

 

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Ah, the tongue. ’Tis a powerful instrument indeed, as St. James sternly warns us in the New Testament book which bears his name (James 3:1-12).

James points to the incongruity of the fact that with this same instrument we can both praise the Lord and curse our neighbors. Strange, he comments, that out of the same spring can flow both fresh and salt water. Odd, he observes, and unnatural, that a fig tree could “bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs.” Something is wrong with that picture, and James is saying that something is wrong with our using an instrument given by God to bless us as a weapon with which to curse those created by God and in His image.

The tongue. It’s such a powerful thing that James says that a person completely able to control it, “never at fault in what he says,” would be a “perfect” person.

The tongue. It may be small, but in our lives it’s like the rudder that steers a huge sea-going vessel. Or, more often, it’s like a spark that sets a forest ablaze. Which leads me to this: We need to be very careful that what flows from our tongues are words that are refreshing, redeeming, and winsome, and not words that spark fires. Most of us would, we like to think, never shove a knife into an enemy, but we need to remember that, in God’s economy, neither are we to bow to the very real temptation to skewer folks with our own forked tongues, to use that instrument to spread poison, or to drop tongue-kindled sparks that fan fires which we secretly hope burn the folks who’ve rubbed us wrong.

Even loose lips which mean no harm can cause injury. Have you ever played the classroom game where the teacher whispers a simple sentence to a person at one end of the room, and then that person whispers it to the next, and so on, until the last person in the room shares it with the whole class? It’s often hilarious to see how the message has changed as it’s been repeated. It’s not so funny in real life.

Combine a willing tongue and a little anger, and you have a fiery combination that very few of us handle well. In this respect, as in so many others, I wish I was more like my father.

Sometime in the 70’s, Dad took a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Holy Land. Several good friends of our family also went on that trip, and one of them recently recalled a long day in which the weary but excited travelers had been sightseeing among the pyramids. The tourists were riding camels led by some pesky camel-drivers who were driving their American visitors crazy with trinket-selling and incessant pleas for handouts. That night my father explained to John Comer, a dear friend, that he’d finally had to get ugly with one of those fellows.

“What did you say?” John asked.

“I said, ‘Sir, I do wish you would leave me alone.’”

That was my Dad at his ugliest. Even when he was angry, he seemed always to have his tongue under control.

I wish I was more like my father.

I wish I was more like my Father.

 

 

 

 

Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

Ah, the tongue. ’Tis a powerful instrument indeed, as the Apostle James sternly warns us in the New Testament book which bears his name (James 3:1-12).

James points to the incongruity of the fact that with this same instrument we can both praise the Lord and curse our neighbors. Strange, he comments, that out of the same spring can flow both fresh and salt water. Odd, he observes, and unnatural, that a fig tree could “bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs.” Something is wrong with that picture, and James is saying that something is wrong with our using an instrument given by God to bless us as a weapon with which to curse those created by God and in His image.

The tongue. It’s such a powerful thing that James says that a person completely able to control it, “never at fault in what he says,” would be a “perfect” person.

The tongue. It may be small, but in our lives it’s like the rudder that steers a huge sea-going vessel. Or, more often, it’s like a spark that sets a forest ablaze. Which leads me to this: We need to be very careful that what flows from our tongues are words that are refreshing, redeeming, and winsome, and not words that spark fires. Most of us would, we like to think, never shove a knife into an enemy, but we need to remember that, in God’s economy, neither are we to bow to the very real temptation to skewer folks with our own forked tongues, to use that instrument to spread poison, or to drop tongue-kindled sparks that fan fires which we secretly hope burn the folks who’ve rubbed us wrong.

Even loose lips which mean no harm can cause injury. Have you ever played the classroom game where the teacher whispers a simple sentence to a person at one end of the room, and then that person whispers it to the next, and so on, until the last person in the room shares it with the whole class? It’s often hilarious to see how the message has changed as it’s been repeated. It’s not so funny in real life.

Combine a willing tongue and a little anger, and you have a fiery combination that very few of us handle well. In this respect, as in so many others, I wish I was more like my father.

Sometime in the 70’s, Dad took a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Holy Land. Several good friends of our family also went on that trip, and one of them recently recalled a long day in which the weary but excited travelers had been sightseeing among the pyramids. The tourists were riding camels led by some pesky camel-drivers who were driving their American visitors crazy with trinket-selling and incessant pleas for handouts. That night my father explained to John Comer, a dear friend, that he’d finally had to get ugly with one of those fellows.

“What did you say?” John asked.

“I said, ‘Sir, I do wish you would leave me alone.’”

That was my Dad at his ugliest. Even when he was angry, he seemed always to have his tongue under control.

I wish I was more like my father.

I wish I was more like my Father.

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

        

 

Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


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