You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
“You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.”
But I say to you, whoever is angry with brother will be liable to judgment;
whoever says, “You fool,” will be liable to fiery Gehenna.
Matthew 5: 21-22
I plead guilty.
Several times a week I call people idiots, though not to their face. It’s my way of responding to the way that some people drive here in Honduras – passing four cars in a row, sometimes on a curve; driving in the middle of the road or on the left side, sometimes around a steep curve; stopping in the middle of the road and blocking traffic; driving incredibly fast on a dirt road, like a bat out of hell. And I thought Boston drivers were bad!
Somehow this anger, frustration, expressed by calling them idiots, out of their hearing, may be indicative of a lack of real peace and tranquility or may hide a lack of real concern for the other.
I don’t know how Jesus would look at that, though I have to examine myself a bit more on this.
Yet as I read the news here and see various posts on Facebook, I see the temptation to demonize those we disagree with, to call them idiots, to call them subversives or worse.
This is not limited to the conservatives. Many liberals and radicals also do this.
This is sad and keeps us from seeing the other as a brother or sister. Instead of dealing with the real differences in friendly – even heated – dialogue, we find it easier to categorize them.
And so we come off as the good guys and they are the stupid idiots.
But God calls us to recognize them as brothers.
In this first of the series of contrasts in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus calls us not to be angry with our brother – our brother (or sister) – and not just with a nameless other.
We are all brothers and sisters and Jesus asks us to restore the relationship of brother and sister.
If not, as one translation puts it,
Whoever calls a brother or sister “Fool!”
is liable of being thrown into the fire of hell.
And so the way out of hell is to recognize those idiots are our sisters and brothers – as fallible and as graced as we are.