I was reading some stuff yesterday from St. John Chrysostom, the great fourth-century servant of the church. A couple of thoughts hit me particularly hard and I've been trying to meditate upon them. Here they are:
"No matter how just your words may be, you ruin everything when you speak with anger."
"Slander is worse than cannibalism."
Both of these thoughts naturally called to mind the third chapter of the book of James and the stern warnings found therein about the dangers of the "tongue." It also calls to mind the even more stern warning of Jesus in Matthew 5 about speaking ill of "your brother." They are words, along with Chrysostom's thoughts, that have been convicting for me as I think about my own speech and the inner attitudes and rhythms of the heart from which they emanate. They are words that maybe all of us could stand to consider living in an age of intense polarization on important issues, angry "town hall" meetings and politics that seem to be largely based upon assailing the character and credentials of other persons and hoping for them to fail so that "we" might have a chance to succeed. As I watch the daily news and read the papers I've begun to wonder if we might be losing something much deeper than just our ability to have "civil" conversations. I fear that in our attitudes and behaviors toward each other (as a society) we have been gradually losing our very humanity. Chrysostom offers another thought that might be helpful to consider here:
"A dreadful thing is the love of money! It disables both eyes and ears, and makes men worse to deal with than a wild beast, allowing a man to consider neither conscience nor friendship nor fellowship nor salvation."
These are heavy thoughts to consider. And I do not want to share them without offering this additional word of hope and inspiration from St. John Chrysostom:
"The bee is more honored than other animals, not because she labors, but because she labors for others."