From the earliest days of cinema, the dénouement of many movies involved a chase scene; the protagonists resolving the narrative dramatic tension in a frantic madcap pursuit. It was considered unwise to lengthen the arc of the story’s development with unnecessary dialogue that ran the risk of boring the audience. Thus, the metaphor “cut to the chase.” Though a preacher, many of my friends being words with whom I enjoy spending time, often the more the merrier, that, cutting to the chase, getting to the point is what I intend to do this morning.
Through nearly thirty years of the world wide web, we, with a mere mouse click, can Ask, Bing, Google, and Yahoo a wealth of information, stories and histories, facts and factoids, news and fake news, about people, places, and things, and store them for our retrieval at our leisure at any time in a cloud. An inherent danger? That we mistake these bits of data for wisdom. For knowing something doesn’t mean necessarily that we have understanding; that capacity to apply what we know fruitfully for the benefit of ourselves and others.
And we, with the mere click of “Send” or “Post,” via email, Facebook, Messenger, text, Twitter, among a host of instant-messaging cyber-platforms, can communicate our observations and opinions. An inherent danger? In the emotional heat of the moment, when (not if!) something or someone hurts or disappoints us, inflames our visceral outrage, incites our righteous indignation, we, unwisely, can share too quickly our less than tactful judgments about people, places, and things.
And throughout the world, in great cities, small towns and villages, in homes, places of business, and on the street, in religious communities, legislative and judicial halls, school corridors, and in the highest office of this land, there are many of us who daily fall prey to this inherent risk.
So, how do we, none of us immune, all of us susceptible to these hazards, navigate successfully, wisely through these days and times so not to sully, indeed, shred the common fabric of human goodwill?
Our brother James speaks to us with ancient words of wisdom about who we are and how we are to be and to behave with one another. His especial emphasis? Our tongues, a metaphor for human speech, spoken or written, with which we can bless and curse.
James neither disavows anger nor that we can and will be angry. We are human with individual likes and dislikes. Therefore, it is not only likely, but inevitable that something or someone will provoke our anger. What James does counsel is that we take care how we express our anger. And the matter and manner of our communication is to be guided by this rule: Alway speak with one another remembering that we all “are made in the likeness of God.”
Cutting to the chase, speaking for myself, because I believe that we are made in the imago Dei, when you stir my anger and when I seek to speak to you of my grievance with you, when I see you, whether face to face or, if my fingers are posed at my computer keyboard or my iPhone is at hand, in my mind’s eye, I see not only you, but also me. For, regardless of race and ethnicity, culture and gender, we are made in the same likeness. Therefore, I will communicate with you in the way I want you to speak with me. Even and especially more, when I see you, I see God; the One in whose likeness we are made. Therefore, I will speak with you as I speak with God.
Neither James nor I says that this is easy, for it is difficult restrain our impulses to follow our natural human tendencies. But, after all, we are the disciples of the One who said: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”