On Wednesday, June 14, a supporter of Senator Bernie Sanders specifically asked if the people on a baseball field were Democrats or Republicans. When told they were Republicans, he opened fire. The protective guard of Steve Scalise bravely returned fire, using pistols against a semi-automatic rifle. The assailant, James Hodgkinson, died after treatment for gunshot wounds.
Before Congressman Scalise came out of surgery, pundits were rushing to turn the event to their political advantage. No surprise. In this age of instant news, the more outlandish your statement and tweets, the more name recognition you get.
People ask, “How do we keep this from happening again?” Some suggest more laws; others suggest more guns. Who is right?
The only way I know to truly change behavior comes not from laws or guns, but from a relationship with Jesus. As the love of Jesus fills your heart, hate is driven from your soul.
Maybe Jesus followers could show the way. What if how we say something matters as much as what we say? Jesus’s brother, James, wrote, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires (1:19-20).” I bet he learned that from his brother.
To do this requires you to believe that God is right and you are not. So listen first to the whispers of God to your soul. Listen to your brother or sister whom God loves. Think about what you say. Think about the impact of your words, your Facebook rants, your tweets, and Instagram messages. Can you make your point without making an enemy?
Realize anger is the most delicious emotion. As anger forms in your mind you are convinced you are right. It’s a short journey from believing you are right to believing you are righteous, thus possessing the right to deliver judgment. It is this line of thinking that moves anger from delicious to dangerous.
When you are filled with righteousness you forget two things: first, “No one is righteous, no, not one (Romans 3:10);” and, second, your anger doesn’t produce a righteousness God desires (see above). Self-righteousness is a deadly sin that can cause you to believe your destruction of someone is justified. We’ll never know, but I would bet James Hodgkinson felt pretty righteous on June 14th.
The homespun wisdom I grew up with taught, “It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it.” May Jesus followers rise up and show our country how to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.