How many times in our lifetime have we said something to somebody and regretted it.
Not that what we said was wrong, but we could have phrased it a better way. Perhaps we could have been kinder in our words or been more considerate. Words have different meanings. Words take an entirely different meaning by the tone of voice used or our facial and eye expressions.
What we say and how we say it is important, so that the person or people we are talking to understands what we are saying. Sarcasm is an example: When someone tells you that you are the smartest person in the world are they complimenting you or are they mocking or criticizing you for thinking you are the smartest person.
The answer lies solely in the relationship of the two people, the context of the conversation and the facial expression of the speaker.
Email and texting gives one no indication how words are to be perceived. Enter the emoji! Emojis are pictures which provide the context of what the speaker is trying to say. A picture of a smiley face, a frown, a face with a mouth and a heart. Until the use of the emoji one seldom knew the meaning of written words. Thankfully emojis have removed many doubts about words that have been written in texts or emails.
Political correctness is another term that has crept into our language these past decades. The Oxford dictionary defines it as “the principle of avoiding language and behavior that may offend particular groups of people. At one time or another we can all be accused of being politically correct or PC. Most people by nature do not want to intentionally offend others.
Kindness and consideration of our differences means that we are usually prudent in our choice of words. When Jesus is confronted by those that oppose him is he being honest with them in his words or is he just being politically correct? We can wonder why Jesus seemed to try to appease his opponents. Did he fear them? Was he being polite? Was he being sarcastic in his responses.
We know from the parables that Jesus’ language was kind and consoling but direct. He was never rude, crude or demeaning to any of his opponents. He showed the same kindness and respect to all, even those with whom he differed. Jesus showed the wisdom to respect the opinion of others while still making sure his true feelings were made known. His respect for others never diminished his sense that the truth needed to be expressed in some way.
Words matter! How we express them takes on a whole new meaning in this 21st Century of social media and social distancing. Jesus understood better than anyone right from wrong. He also understood that everyone he met was his brother and sister created by the Father. In this complex world the truth is still the truth and it matters.
People read and hear things differently and draw conclusions from what they hear and read. Jesus understood this in the 1st Century when communication was simpler.
In the 21st Century we need to look to Jesus’ example of respect and kindness for others in how we express our thoughts and opinions. Some would say it is being politically correct, others would agree that wisdom in our speech is Christian.
In the words of that once famous TV show the X Files, “The Truth is Out There”. We need to hold fast to the truth and live it in the example of Christ. We can still express our opinions but respect and kindness must rule the day. HATE speech is never OK.