I have a habit of browsing the news. It is perhaps an addiction or obsession. I don’t seem to be able to stop. I prefer written news articles, some in print, most online. Television newscasts move too slowly, too many commercials and they tend to skim the surface. Written news is usually more in depth, can be scanned much more quickly and is updated constantly online.
But lately I have questioned whether I should continue to indulge this habit. Perhaps I should quit reading the news altogether, or at least take a break. It is almost always depressing. Everyone seems angry at somebody. Everyone wants to blame somebody else for their difficulties. Politicians, athletes, actors and actresses, celebrities of every stripe. They call each other names and throw insults at one another. The world has become vitriolic.
Of course there are exceptions. But the exceptions are often drowned out by the sheer noise of name calling and accusations.
Jesus had some rather severe warnings for conduct such as this. He said, “Everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good for nothing,’ shall be guilty before the Supreme Court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.” (Matthew 5:22).
But there is a better way. Jesus demonstrated it by his life and in his death choosing to bless rather than to curse those who attacked him. The Apostle Paul explained it like this:
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself. Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves that was also in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:3-5).
“Therefore laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor. … Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. … Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving, just as God in Christ has also forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:25-32).
We can do little to change what public figures may say or what is reported in the news. But we can change the conversation. At work, at home and school. When conversations become acerbic we can change the tone. We can refuse to respond in kind. We can reduce the rhetoric. “A soothing tongue is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 15:4).