Published Mar 16, 2019

Christian name-calling

Article by Casey McFall

For many Christians, one of our favorite things to do is engage in the practice of name-calling. Of course, we don’t really refer to it as that. We like to dress it up in such terms as “Descriptive labels” or mask it in an air of spirituality by referring to it as “Calling out sin”. Honestly though, it doesn’t matter what we call it, because the practice of name calling covers the Gospel and turns from God both the saved and unsaved! So what does the Bible have to say about Christian name-calling?

 

Colossians 4:6 “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.”

The Greek word "Charis" is translated as "grace" here in Col 4:6, and is defined as:

1. that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness

2. good will, loving-kindness, favor.

 

There is another key word here other than grace however. That word is "always". Always means any time we talk. Every word that comes from our mouth must be graceful regardless of our current temperament, emotional state, circumstances, or anything else. So far, none of this has come as a surprise or anything new really. Naturally then, the first question that comes to mind is: "Why aren't we doing it?" But even that challenge isn't the point right now. The main focus of these few paragraphs is to call out "Christian name-calling". I've heard it done in private, I've heard it in public, I've even heard it from the pulpit! So, this is a challenge of the rightness of that practice.

 

I. There is a difference between calling out sin and calling names

II Thess. 3:14-15 says to note those living in sin and to admonish them as a brother. "As a brother" means that even while admonishing them we should do so with love while calling out the sin rather than name-calling the sinner! Matthew 18:15-20 goes on to describe the process of this admonishment. It should happen first in private, then with another Christian present, and only after that should it be taken public. And the purpose of taking it public isn't to shame and embarrass the person, but to get others to pray for them and enact church discipline if the individual still won't listen!

 

II. "But Jesus did it" is no excuse for a lack of grace in our speech!

There are many times in the Bible where Jesus called groups hypocrites, fools, and liars. He even went so far as to call some vipers and to liken them to whited sepulchers! Clearly this must have been with grace however, since Jesus did not sin. These instances can only be said to have been graceful or done with grace because each and every one of His comments meets the following conditions:

A. They were never untrue or unjust

Jesus, as God, could look on the hearts of His listeners and (also as God) could judge them accordingly (I Sam. 16:7). He never misunderstood a behavior or made assumptions based on a lack of knowledge or a biased perspective. We, as humans, do not possess this power! We can only look on the outward actions of an individual with no insight into the reasons or causes behind those actions. Even our view of those actions are limited to the times that we are around that person and are filtered through our own personal biases!

B. They would never turn His listeners from God or the truth

Romans 14:12-13 says: “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.” Once again, Jesus did not sin. Thus, in His divine knowledge, He knew that His harsh words would not serve to drive His listeners from God the Father. This is further illustrated in Luke 13:17, where Jesus' adversaries were ashamed but the people rejoiced at His works. Everything that Jesus did was intentionally done to draw men closer to God. Nor is any soul less valuable than another; so, He would not be playing the odds and say something that would turn one away just to draw the other 99.

C. They came from the Spirit, not the flesh

Galatians 5:22-23 describes the fruits of the Spirit; such as, love, peace, gentleness, and meekness. If we are in the Spirit, we will naturally produce loving things as part of the fruit of the Spirit. This includes loving words! Jesus Christ always walked and lived in the Spirit.

D. They never targeted an individual

Search through the Gospels. Whenever Jesus used such harsh language, it was directed at a group. "Scribes and pharisees", "lawyers", "you (being plural)". He called out these groups to warn individuals away from them and to bring those individuals to God. He never separated an individual to shame them or bash them over the head with His knowledge of their wrongdoing. Instead, He always gave an opportunity for them to save face, repent, and to come to God. Even when presented with the perfect opportunity to publicly call out a sinner (John 8) in front of others and chastise her, He was meek with His words and encouraged her towards God.

 

III. When name-calling is Biblically acceptable

Putting it all together, we can come to two conclusions. First, calling names is Biblically acceptable (since Jesus did it); and second, that there are several absolute criteria for doing so. So when can we call others names and be in the clear? Anytime you can say without a shadow of a doubt that your name calling meets all of the same conditions that Jesus' did (while also remembering His lesson in John 8:7), then feel free to name-call and be confident that you are doing so with grace! But if the apostles themselves didn't feel confident in their ability to meet all of those conditions (based on a noticeable lack of any name calling on the part of the apostles) then perhaps you should check yourself for pride anytime that you feel like you can successfully meet them all! Because the truth of the matter is that Jesus did so with a distinct purpose: to warn people away from these wicked groups and draw them to God. But our reasons for name-calling are never so holy! We enjoy calling others a gossip, hypocrite, harlot, and so on because it appeals to the flesh. Such name calling makes us feel better about ourselves in the same way that the Pharisee of Luke 18:11 felt better about himself by publicly praying, “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.” Ultimately, it is the result of our own selfish pride and such words ought not ever pass our lips!

 

James 3:6 “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.”






I just finished reading this article again this morning to remind myself how my speech should be throughout the day as a Christian. What a great reminder and I pray God to help me to walk with in the spirit so my mind , my heart and my whole body know that I should be holy as God commanded us to be!

Anonymous            March 27, 2019, 2:28 p.m.

This is really good. You do a great job of presenting what God has given you while not lecturing the reader. I also love the layout of your points resembling a message. Great reminder to watch our tongues (and thoughts).

Anonymous            March 27, 2019, 5:59 a.m.

"Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips." Psalm 141:3
Thank you for this reminder of how important it is to speak with "grace" AND to speak the truth in love!

Darlene Hellmann            March 16, 2019, 9:24 p.m.

Ouch! So true, but this really hits home!

Prov. 12:18 "There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health."

Pastor Mark            March 16, 2019, 5:54 p.m.

Stay in touch with the Salt with Savor newsletter!

* indicates required