Cursing the Likeness of God
The tongue is called “a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so” (Jas 3:8-10).
Cursing others. Speaking evil. Grotesque language and malicious insults. Even while claiming to follow God? It happens. Communication, especially through online media, is a major part of our culture. This is bigger than just “the tongue.” The “tongue” stands for what we say and how we say it. It can be filtered down to what we write and how address others. Whatever is coming out in communication is what is found in our hearts. Remember what Jesus taught (Matt 12:33-37):
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Think about it: “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Foul language is prevalent. We cannot hardly walk down the street or go to the store without hearing it. It is heard and seen in shows, articles, tweets, posts, responses, and often used by those who make communication their profession or who are well known to the public. People do it in the name of politics, sports, entertainment, and religion. It’s like a bad script wherein the writer has little vocabulary to express feelings other than an expletive. Is that really necessary? What does it really add to the dialogue anyway?
They—we—are speaking out of the abundance of the heart. For the Christian, these things ought not to be for one simple reason, and it is foundational to all of our interactions with others:
The people with whom we are communicating are made in the likeness of God.
Being made in God’s image is what makes human beings so different from the rest of material creation. This requires a certain level of respect toward one another, for how we treat others serves in large measure as an indicator of what we think about God.
Can we imagine speaking directly to God with harsh and grotesque language. Would we think about cursing Him to His face, maliciously insulting Him or slandering Him? Sadly, people do that. Would we want to be found with this attitude? What we need to see is that when we do it to our fellow human beings, we are insulting and cursing God also because people are made in His image. When we mistreat the one made in God’s image, we mistreat God. Jesus’ words reverberate here: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
Do we have to talk about which words comprise the cursing, the insults, and the foul rhetoric? What makes for an evil insult? What does it look like to type and say things that curse those made in the likeness of God? If we don’t know, perhaps we ought to avoid commenting and sharing until we have it figured out. If we are not able to speak or write in ways that glorify God, we need to repent and learn to speak truth in love.
Typing something in social media makes it easier to say things we normally wouldn’t to someone’s face. There’s a bit of a wall there that might make us feel that we an say what we wouldn’t otherwise. But we need to imagine, to see beyond a computer screen, and know there is a real human being made in God’s image on the other side who is reading. There are people with feelings. There are people who may be hurting — and even if that person is lashing out unkindly, how we respond may bring a new perspective to the one who needs to hear. Speak and write with grace. This is the Lord’s will (Col 4:2-6).
The foundation to all of our interactions with others is couched within the statement made by James: we are speaking to those “who are made in the likeness of God.” Couple that with our need to show love and to treat others as we would have them treat us (Matt 7:12), and we can completely renovate our communication and interactions with others. We can glorify God, as is our profession, and open doors of opportunity in the process.