It was a strange moment when a smart and smooth-looking businessman stared at me and confessed that he did not like me when he first met me. In fact, from the first time he heard me speak, he instantly disliked me and responded negatively each time he saw me. Seemed a little harsh, it’s not like I’m carrying a pitchfork and have two horns poking out of my head.
Following his confession, I naturally asked, ‘why are you telling me this?’ It seemed like it lacked common courtesy. As I remind my children, inside voice, please, you really should not speak what is tumbling around in your head. Just because you think it does not mean you have to say it, you have control over your cocktail party of thoughts.
The businessman explained that many years ago, he worked for an English man, a terrible manager. It was an appalling experience, and from that point on, he had lumped us English all together as jerks, fools, or numbskulls.
Thankfully, it didn’t end there. He went on to say that he forgave his old boss, and he enjoys my speaking and likes me now. Reassuring me that not all English are the same. I was relieved as I do not think the English have cornered the market on bad managers. This story reminds me of Jesus’s words about calling no man a fool because words can murder, and Jesus links it with the exact duplicate of the sixth commandment, ‘thou shalt not murder, but I say when you are angry call no one Raca or a fool.’ (Exodus 20:13) To call someone the Aramaic word “Raca” is literally to call him “empty-headed.” Commentators suggest a few more contemporary substitutes like a numbskull, nitwit, blockhead, bonehead, jerk, or a brainless idiot. I have been called most of them, sometimes even affectionately! Raca, used in a deadly, earnest way, demotes another person to the level of nothing. This is one of the points Jesus is making in Matthews 5:21-26, don’t write people off, don’t place people into a filing cabinet of the mind where we think of them as nothing. Where we somehow gaze down from our superior position. Jesus is saying that contemptuous anger will get us into spiritual trouble and affect our relationship with God. Jesus condemns angry contempt and all its cousins — animosity, malice, hostility, malevolence, wrath. Even when people insult us and fail us, think of Christ’s response on the cross as they hurled insults.
‘Father, forgive them.’
Forgive and move on, anger will always poison our lives – and don’t write people off, even the English.