Boy, people can be mean. I’m thinking particularly of a reader named Samantha, whose scolding of me turned into a scalding.
By the time she was finished with her vicious tirade, I was skinned, boiled and overcooked. It didn’t make me mad, though. It didn’t even hurt my feelings. It made me sad. Real sad.
She wrote to point out a factual error I made in a column about the King James Bible, in which I said it was the first English translation. I was wrong, and I apologize for my mistake. It was not the first English translation.
The column, though, was not about that. It was about the commonality of phrases we use today that comes from the King James Bible and the beauty of the language. It mainly was a whimsical piece, entertaining more than anything. It was not a scholarly piece. Most of my columns aren’t.
Oh, but she did get riled up. She wrote two pages, and the longer she wrote, the meaner she got. One of the kinder things she said was, “I pray that people will stop worshipping a translation and start worshipping God.”
A few sentences later, she continued, “God didn’t send his son to die for the English-speaking people. He sent his son to die for all people of all tongues.”
I understand. But I can’t read Korean or Italian, so I have to read the English versions. I certainly wasn’t espousing the King James Bible to be the final word in international Biblical translation. I even own a NIV and NLT and a couple of others, but I prefer King James.
But here’s what makes me sad: This is how a “Christian” acts? Maybe it’s just me, but it certainly didn’t seem to be good public relations for Christianity. If I weren’t rooted deeply in the ancient principles and teachings of the Bible, if I didn’t already have that commitment in my life, I wouldn’t want any part of a religion where someone talks like that to another person over a mistake. A biblical mistake.
It made me think long and hard about the smart mouth I have sometimes. But my problem tends to come in one- or two-sentence tart comebacks, or a tone that can be somewhat sharp. I don’t do mean, lengthy, condescending sermons. And I especially would not do it when representing myself as a person of faith.
Here’s the trouble with some Christians (I said “some,” not “all”): They believe that the authority of the word of God gives them the authority to annihilate those who do not share their exact same beliefs. Wrong. The word of God commissions those who believe to go forth with love and kindness to friends and enemies alike. It tells us to stand brave for what we believe but “be ye kind one to another.” We can disagree civilly.
As you might expect, the majority of my friends and family are people of faith and like-minded values. But two of the best friends I have in the world are not Christians, yet they are two of the finest people I have ever met. I greatly love and admire both.
Both are men of integrity, ethics, moral uprightness, compassion and kindness. One, particularly, has given away millions of dollars to help those less fortunate, and he has never turned his back on anyone in need. Once, a man who had double-crossed him in a business deal was in financial dire straits. My friend, the non-Christian, called up and asked, “How much do you need? I’ll send you a check today.”
Back to Samantha. I responded briefly to her to say what I said above. And you know what? She proved she truly is a Christian. She humbled herself and asked sincerely for forgiveness of her unkindness.
Now, if the rest of us could just practice the same thing.