There’s a well-known, somewhat snarky little poem that one hears now and again in the church:
To dwell above with saints we love–
That will be grace and glory!
But to dwell below with saints we know?
That’s another story!
Sad but true. Many of us can easily think of a saint or two below whose behavior we’ve found offensive. The brother who speaks the truth, but not in love. The sister who violates confidentiality and spreads gossip in the form of prayer requests.
We remember other people’s rudeness.
And others remember ours.
For example, I confess to a sometimes troubling addiction: I’m overly fond of wordplay. Anything and everything people say to me is a potential opportunity for humor. Inside my head, the words I hear are making random connections of their own, and I may respond with an equally random joke or pun. Much of the time, it brings a chuckle, or even another playful pun in response. Sometimes I get a brief blank stare, and the conversation moves on as if I had said nothing.
And occasionally, without meaning to, I will say something the other finds offensive or insulting. True, I have sometimes thought the other person was being overly sensitive. But what does that mean, really? Hey, chill out. Aren’t you big enough to take a little verbal abuse from me in the name of humor?
Thankfully, it only rarely happens. But every time, it’s because I’m too quick to grab at the chance to be funny. I’m not thinking, I’ve misjudged the moment, I’ve been inappropriate. And it’s all on me.
In the previous post, I suggested that “Love isn’t rude” may mean that advised humor when he wrote that. But I submit that there are myriad ways we give offense with thoughtless words.
The tongue is “a restless evil,” we are told (Jas 3:8). Surely the folks in Corinth has offended one another with their words, not to mention their thoughtless behaviors, such as the way the rich were treating the poor at the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 11:17-34).
Bad form. Unloving and unlovely behavior. By the gracious gift of God’s Spirit, we can do better. And should.