MOMENTS WITH THE MINISTER: A stone's throw from heaven
"God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved." (Romans 12:14)
I grew up at a time that certain expressions of sexual or restroom activities, along with religious words of condemnation, demeaning references to persons as animals, and other insulting language were not to be uttered in polite company, nor in government regulated media.
We have come a long way in our exercise of freedom of speech, and not always for the better. Cursing goes beyond uttering something on a list of formerly forbidden words. Any behavior that attempts to denigrate a person or group of people, including- among other things- a belittling statement, an upraised middle finger, or an unflattering caricature, fits the definition of cursing.
The Supreme Court has decided to expand the Second Amendment of speech to include any form of expression of an idea. This freedom is not absolute. Hate speech labels individuals of certain people groups as inferior, and violates their civil rights.
Government regulation of speech may be influenced by the whims of the people who allow the government to rule. For example, a pastor preaching a sermon based on Romans 1, or any similar passage of Scripture, might find himself given a choice: recant, or go to jail for offending gay people. Persecution of Christians is not new. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told the people they would be blessed if they were persecuted for righteousness. This precludes misusing the Bible to make yourself look good by making other people look bad.
I have heard complaints from people outside the Church that Christians are mean-spirited, judgmental, and hypocritical. As a Christian, I have seen those traits in some of my brothers and sisters in Christ, and in myself. All have sinned and fallen short of God's glory.
I take comfort in the fact that, at the beginning of First Corinthians, Apostle Paul addressed the church members as saints;and, then he proceeded to teach them lovingly about allowing the Holy Spirit to help them overcome their unsaintly behavior. (Side note: I wasn't there, but I'm told that First Century Romans, permissive as they were- if they wanted to label a particularly vile person- would call that person a 'Corinthian' because of Corinth's reputation for immorality.)
Jesus' life was winsome. He blessed people that others of that time and place would have rejected: foreigners, children, the poor, the crippled, tax collectors, lepers. He blessed women, including those who were doubly stigmatized: an adulteress, a Samaritan, a woman with a bleeding disorder. As He was dying, the thieves on the crosses beside him were cursing; but, He asked God to forgive the tormentors. This act led the leader of the execution squad to acknowledge Jesus as a righteous man- even the Son of God. And, one of the thieves changed his attitude, and asked Jesus to remember him when He received the Kingdom of Heaven. The Lord's example inspired Stephen, the first known martyr, to pray that God would forgive the ones stoning him.
There is a spiritual law in the Bible that says you will reap what you sow. (Galatians 6:7,8) Yes, God will reward you in Heaven, but the good feeling you get in the here and now from the knowledge that you have benefited others is priceless.
My mother said repeatedly, "There is so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, that it behooves each of us to refuse to belittle any of us." (See John 8:7 If we can justify stoning sinners, Bob Dylan sang, "Everybody must get stoned.")
Homer McQueen serves as assistant pastor of Mt. Carmel Church of God in Christ, secretary at In His Shadow Outreach Ministries, chaplain for the Sherman District Parole Office, ministry volunteer for the Texas Youth Commission and Texas Department of Criminal Justice, a part-time pharmacist, and a full-time husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.