I love the New Testament. I think it’s fair to say that I live, eat, breathe, and drink the New Testament. I honestly think that there’s no piece of literature more inspiring and uplifting than the New Testament. Having said that, I have to admit that more often than not, I find myself frustrated—and a bit annoyed—at its content. Because the more I read the New Testament, the more I realize that God has set the bar sky-high for those that would call themselves Christ -followers. Case in point. The Apostle Paul tells us in Titus 3:2 to “Speak evil of no man.”
Um…excuse me Paul? What were you thinking? Don’t you believe that evil exists in the world? Certainly when you talk about speaking evil of no man, you don’t mean to include people like Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot …or do you? Oh, wait a second. I almost forgot. You wrote these words when the homicidal maniac named Nero was doing some pretty crazy things, like impaling Christians and using them for torches. My bad. Still, couldn’t you have at least put in an exception clause for those that are really bad?
Why does this verse annoy me so much? Because I’ve got some pretty strong political opinions. And what I think this verse is saying is that even if I believed that the presidency of Barack Obama represents the second coming of Chairman Mao or that Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin want to reduce the middle class to permanent serfdom, I’m still not supposed to speak evil of them.
I can hear the half-screams already. You’re proof-texting! Certainly we need to speak against people that believe in killing unborn babies, that are in bed with Wall Street, that raise taxes, that cut social spending, that are steering our country on a path to socialism or—insert your political beef here. Very well then. My question to you is this. Is the person that you’re thinking about worse than Satan? According to Jude verses 8 and 9, Christians aren’t even supposed to bring a reviling accusation against Satan! And, by the way, the context of the passage in Jude is talking about those in authority—including political leaders.
When Jesus spoke about loving enemies, He used the Heavenly Father as an example of someone who is “kind to the unthankful and evil” (Luke 6:35). Notice the word evil. Evil is a pretty strong word. It encompasses everything from your passive aggressive mother- in- law to the terrorism of Osama Bin Laden and—yes—to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and Glen Beck depending on your political persuasion. It’s true that Jesus called the Pharisees “Brood of vipers!” (Matthew 23:33) but notice that He never called Caiaphas a snake. Jesus never made it personal. He attacked ideas, not people.
Furthermore, if anyone would have qualified for the title of scumbag, it would have been Zacchaeus; the guy that was using his position with the Romans to screw the poor among his own people. Yet, how did Jesus treat Zacchaeus? He offered unconditional friendship to the man by inviting Himself to his house. Zacchaeus became a changed man (Luke 19:1-10). Heck, Jesus even called Judas His friend after the Scriptures specifically tell us that Judas became indwelt by Satan! (Matthew 26:50, Luke 22:3) Talk about seeing life through rose-colored glasses!
I’m not saying that I have all the answers when it comes to reconciling this teaching with the idea that Christians are supposed to take a stand against injustice and “expose” the works of darkness (Ephesians 5:11). I’m just wondering what would happen if Christians worldwide became known as people that are so loving, so kind, so gracious, so humble, that they refuse to speak evil of people with whom they have deep disagreements? What if Christians became known as people that are—to quote the last part of the verse we started with—“peaceable and gentle, showing all humility to all men?” What if?