Yesterday, we read that Jesus continues to parse the Beatitudes focusing on two very important issues: 1)the power of language and 2) treatment of women. Jesus is clearly saying we can’t justify harsh language and that kind of speech has ghastly divine consequences. No, we’re not talking about taking the Lord’s name in vain. We’re talking about hurtful, mean, abusive, harsh language used to intentionally hurt feelings, steal someone’s spirit or kill their sense of self. There are the obvious, like racial epithets, using anatomy to describe women, or taunting. But we also discussed the national climate of mean spiritedness, name calling and lack of civil discourse. As social and political beings we can get caught up in this verbal mayhem. Jesus calls us to step out of the fray and find ways to manage it with civility, peacemaking and conciliation. He says the further we are from a sense of common humanity, the further we are from God. The further we are from God, the bleaker our lives become. Finally, using language to nullify another’s humanity is simply not an option for disciples. Words can kill. Abusive language is not “of God.” Period.
As for women Jesus teaches us that demeaning women with language and lust, and gender inequality is not acceptable. He appeals directly to men to see women as human beings, not chattel or objects of lust. In our society women are used as sex objects to appeal to our voracious appetite for consumerism. Jesus challenges us to change our way of looking at women, seeing and uplifting their humanity, not their sexuality. He emphasizes women’s equality, dignity and humanity. I could give a list of suggestions, but I fear they would be easily discounted moralisms. Perhaps it is better to remember that this is not a small matter. For Jesus it is at the heart of human community and the way he understands discipleship. If that doesn’t gain our attention, we’re lost souls.