Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good
for necessary edification that it may impart grace to the hearers.
Ephesians 4:29

Our culture has become rude, crude, and barbaric. Every day we see slander, defamation, and innuendo used to try and silence and damage political and ideological opponents.
Sadly, this same spirit and attitude has seeped into the church. We are seeing “Christians” throw the “f” bomb and angrily demean those with whom they disagree. I recently received an email from a person who disagreed with an article I had written. I was willing to engage with him in dialogue, but I found him so rude, crude, and arrogant that after 2-3 emails, I ended the conversation.
Jesus Addresses the Problem
This sort of uncivil and disrespectful attitude was addressed by Jesus in a very stunning manner in Matthew 5:21-22. He said,  
You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment. But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother “Raca!” shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, “You fool!” shall be in danger of hell fire.
Raca is an Aramaic word that carried a meaning like “blockhead” or “idiot” and signified a vain, empty, worthless fellow. “Fool” is a translation of the Greek word morē and is the word from which we get our English word “moron.” It also meant “empty, useless, and worthless.” Some biblical scholars believe that morē is the Greek translation of the Aramaic raca and that Jesus used it as an intensive to buttress the same meaning conveyed by raca.
Expressing such a rude and disrespectful attitude toward another human being is no small thing. Such an attitude, Jesus said, puts one in danger of hell fire.
Begins in the Heart
This teaching by Jesus on civility and respect has a direct parallel to how He taught about adultery. He begins with an act that is disallowed in the Old Testament and then raises the bar to a new level by going to the attitude of the heart and identifying that as the place where the sin begins. In Matthew 5:27-28 he said,
You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not commit adultery,” but I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Just as adultery begins in the heart, so does murder. And just as those who look on a woman to lust for her are guilty, so those who raca their fellow human beings and would destroy their reputations and livelihood with demeaning labels and epithets are guilty of murder in their heart and are in danger of hell fire.
The Source of Our Worth
By tying disrespect with the Old Testament command against murder, Jesus demonstrated that the reason for respect is that we are made in the image and likeness of our Creator (Genesis 1:26-27). The command against murder in Genesis 9:6 is tied to mankind being made in the image and likeness of God. It reads, Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man.
It is the image of God in humanity that gives us our incredible worth. Being made in the image and likeness of God is said of no other created being, not even angels. Our incredible value is highlighted by the fact that no redemption was provided for the angels that fell, but God Himself provided redemption for fallen humanity whom He had created in His own image and likeness.
To express a raca attitude toward a fellow human being is like standing in front of a painting in the presence of the painter and going, “Blaaah!” You are not just disrespecting the painting; you are disrespecting the painter. And so it is with those who express a raca spirit toward their fellow human beings in the presence of their Creator.

The drawing to the left is of Dirk Willems an Anabaptist preacher who was condemned as a heretic by the Roman Catholic Church in the Netherlands and placed under arrest. He escaped and crossed a frozen pond, which did not break because he had lost so much weight in prison. However, the guard who was chasing him fell through the ice and began to cry out for help. Dirk turned back and rescued him. The guard then returned him to his prison cell where he was held until he was burned at the stake on May 16, 1569.

Why did Dirk do this? Because he and his fellow Anabaptists believed that all people, even their captors, bore the image of the Creator. They knew the image had been marred by the fall and sin, but not erased. Every human being, therefore, is of great value and this was the basis on which Dirk rescued his captor and persecutor.
Tracing the Loss of Cultural Respect
I think there is no question that this raca spirit has come into our culture as a result of the widespread rejection of the Biblical truth of creation. If we are all products of a chance, evolutionary process then we have no more intrinsic value than any mammal, or even a bug for that matter. Therefore, so what if I demean and ridicule you!
I suspect that it would be difficult to find a pro-abortionist who believes that human beings bear the image of their Creator. If we are all products of time and chance and that “thing” in the womb is just a clump of cells and flesh—a fetus—then it is easy to justify eliminating that clump of flesh when it poses an inconvenience.
And if we are all mere accidents floating through space on this planet with no transcendent meaning to our lives, then why not ridicule, mock, and slander those who are not like us and with whom we disagree. On the other hand, if I understand that each person bears the image and likeness of our Creator and was worth the Son of God coming to earth to suffer and die for, then I must have a different attitude toward that person.
By the way, the truth of the image of God in humanity was the basis on which slavery was ultimately outlawed in America. Abolition arose on the premise that (1) all people are equal by virtue of creation, for all bear the image and likeness of their Creator and (2) all people are equal in redemption for Christ died and rose again for all people.
Yes, as documented in my latest book, 1726, it was the above Biblical paradigm that ignited the Abolition movement in America and eventually brought about the end of slavery on this continent. This paradigm, if applied, can have a great impact in our generation as well.
What Would Happen?
What would happen if we all began to show respect to one another in everyday life and on social media? We can express our opinions, even passionately, without demeaning our opponents in a raca manner. 

What would happen if politicians began showing respect to their political opponents, even while vehemently disagreeing? 
What would happen if parents taught their children to respect the police and comply with their requests? What would happen if police treated the people they stop, and even arrest, with respect along with any necessary firmness?
Bible-believing Christians should be leading the way in showing such respect to one another, and to all people, including non-believers and those with whom we disagree. Ephesians 4:29-32 can be our guide. It reads,
Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be encouragement to those who hear them . . . Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well all types of malicious behavior. Instead, be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you (NLT).
We must also join to together in crying out to God for another Great Awakening to visit this land. Only a great, national spiritual awakening will save America and restore the respect that is owed every human being who is created in the image and likeness of their Creator.
Dr. Eddie L. Hyatt is an author and ordained minister with a heart for authentic spiritual awakening. His latest book, 1726: The Year that Defined America, documents how the Great Awakening of 1726-70 had a direct bearing on the founding of America and the abolition of slavery on this continent. His books are available from Amazon and his website at www.eddiehyatt.com

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