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In “Your God is Too Small,” J.B. Phillips wrote, “Self-centered and evil people really fear the good. They express their fear by mockery, cynicism and, when circumstances allow, by active persecution.”
Sarcasm and mockery, I am sad to say, were part of my upbringing. For much of my life, I did not recognize their incompatibility with a life of discipleship.

It was not until I tuned out most radio and television that I began to notice how awful sarcasm sounded.

It’s a lot like having a white shirt that has grown dingy. You don’t see the dinginess if everything else is dingy, but if you get a new white shirt, suddenly the old shirt no longer looks white at all.

I now notice sarcasm acutely, and it is so prevalent in our society. Even programming aimed at children is not immune from denigrating comments toward others.

Mockery, cynicism and sarcasm are so commonplace that we don’t even associate them with “evil.” Political candidates and those who follow politics, even those who claim to be Christian, believe such acts are justified.

“It is just the way things are. You’ve got to fight fire with fire. It’s a dog-eat-dog world.”

But it doesn’t stop with politics. Our delight in mocking celebrities is just as bad. We spew our attacks, piercing the soul of another even while waving Scripture like a banner.

James observed the irony of such behavior when he said:

People can tame and already have tamed every kind of animal, bird, reptile and fish. No one can tame the tongue, though. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we both bless the Lord and Father and curse human beings made in God’s likeness. Blessing and cursing come from the same mouth. My brothers and sisters, it just shouldn’t be this way!

– James 3:7-10

And Jesus, in one of his teachings that raised the bar on the Ten Commandments, said:

You have heard that it was said to those who lived long ago, Don’t commit murder, and all who commit murder will be in danger of judgment. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be in danger of judgment. If they say to their brother or sister, “You idiot,” they will be in danger of being condemned by the governing council. And if they say, “You fool,” they will be in danger of fiery hell.

– Matthew 5:21-22

The cynic’s voice and the mocker’s wrath always seem to draw more attention than the voice of love and gentleness. And persecution settles on the one who has the courage to respond in love rather than by maligning another.

It requires greater courage to live a life of gentleness and love than to live a life of cynicism and mockery.

It takes more time, energy and patience to seek to understand and to engage in honest self-reflection, than it does to kill another with our words.

Ann Smith, a CPA for more than 25 years, is currently a spiritual director, writer, speaker and author of “Written on My Heart.” A version of this column first appeared on her blog, Out of My Heart, and is used with permission.

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