“Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32)
The things that are done by mankind in general and even by us in particular in the name of love seem to open Pandora’s Box. Out of this opened box can fly kind thoughts, words and deeds that lift others up and strengthen them. But out of this same opened box can fly the ugliest, most hurtful and anything-but-kind words precipitated by wrong thoughts in the heart, betrayal of friendship and a marked absence of compassion!
The song Don’t Be Cruel was recorded by Elvis Presley way back in 1956. It became an instant hit and record sales hit the six million dollar mark by 1961. Cruelty defined means “mistreatment or neglect that causes pain and suffering.” But we don’t need a dictionary definition of this word to understand its meaning.
Cruelty is as much a part of our world as the sun, moon and stars above us and it never seems to diminish. We are all in shock when acts of cruelty are manifested toward the young, other adults and even animals. When we think we have seen it all, a new and more offensive means of cruelty is displayed.
C.S. Lewis writes, “evil comes from the use of free will.” We get that don’t we! As has always been the case in God dealing with man, there is a corresponding responsibility that accompanies a blessing. It’s always been that way and always will be! We have an uncanny ability to excuse and justify ourselves for words unkindly spoken, deeds meanly done and for conduct that is anything but Christ-like.
Consider the following quote from a Greek philosopher by the name of Bion who lived three centuries before Christ: “Though boys throw stones at frogs in sport, the frogs do not die in sport, but in earnest.” It’s not difficult for us to picture the scene of young boys playing on the bank of a creek or pond … spotting a few plump frogs on a cluster of lily pads … filling their hands with sharp-cornered rocks … taking careful aim … then launching their surprise attack with a barrage of stones. Maybe a few are able to escape, but others are not so lucky. Those hit are crippled and maimed, and they die a painful death.
For the frogs, this series of events became a matter of life or death. Unfortunately, as adults and even as young people, we will stand on the banks and throw stones. Only instead of throwing stones, we aim sharp-cornered words at each other. It might be by husbands and wives; it might be by parents and kids; it might be by kids to kids; and it might be by brethren to brethren! Wounds are inflicted that hurt, cause much pain and generate heartache that can be difficult to overcome!
So … here we are … each one of us standing on the bank of life and living. We decide whether to throw the words and deeds that will possibly destroy and break another’s heart prompted by anger, disgust, jealousy, and in self-righteous indignation, or we can decide to put the stones down. If we can’t say something to help the other person in his or her journey that will lift them up when they need it the most, make no mistake we will answer on the day of Judgment!
Having lived a long time, I have both observed and experienced the heartache of mean-spirited words. Believe me … it is painful, hurtful and it is wrong! The fact is we can do better! When our Lord beckons us to be kind, tenderhearted, compassionate and forgiving … He is simply requiring of us to give to others what He has already given to each of us.
Why do we act this way? Each of us must answer this question and it will be much better for us if we can deal with this infirmity of the heart now, rather than to give an answer to the Lord on that day of Judgment. It is time for a change … in our world … in our families … in the church!
The apostle John actually answers the question of ‘why do we act this way’ in 1 John 3:16-18, “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s good, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”
Bill Fairchild, Jr.