There is a growing number of people who have taken it upon themselves to “defend the truth.”

Now, I am all for truth – my metaphysics roll A Priori (Translation: I believe there is reality outside of a person’s experience.). However, there is something about the approach and the spirit of many of these “truth defenders” that seems off the mark. They often seem driven by fear, anger, or pride rather than by a love of what is true … or a love of the people they engage.

So how should we speak of truth?

The ancient writings of James provide a helpful guide for those who believe that true truth really does exist, and they want other people hold to it. James shows a right way to speak of truth.

Be Slow to Speak of Things Beyond You. James 3:1 Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers, for we who teach will be judged more strictly.

Remember the Power of Words. James 3:5 In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire.

Do Not Slander Another Person. James 3:10 And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!

Living the Truth is the Best Proof. James 3:13 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom.

Real Truth is Loving. James 3:17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.

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Did you read what Philadelphia Phillies Veteran Pitcher Pedro Martinez said to reporters the night before he was to pitch against the New York Yankees in game two of the World Series?

This is what he said about how the New York media has treated him over the years:

“You guys have used me and abused me,” he said. “I remember quotes in the paper, ‘Here comes the man that New York loves to hate.’ Man? None of you have probably ever eaten steak with me or rice and beans with me to understand what the man is about. You might say the player, the competitor, but the man? You guys have abused my name. You guys have said so many things, have written so many things.

“There was one time I remember when I was a free agent, there was talk that I might meet with Steinbrenner. One of your colleagues had me in the papers with horns and a tail, red horns and a tail. That’s a sign of the devil. I’m a Christian man. I don’t like those things. I take those things very serious. Those are the kind of things that the fans actually get used to seeing, and actually sometimes influence those people to believe that you are a bad person, that you are like an ogre.”

As a long time Phillies fan, I was not sure that I wanted our pitcher going all “vulnerable” before a game.

Others will say Pedro was just playing head games with the Yankees.

But what if there is something bigger than baseball involved in that quote?

Pedro’s words should remind all of us of the damage that we cause when we demonize people with our rhetoric. We must find ways to disagree, even compete, without losing the humanity of the other person or calling them the devil.

May we be people who respect the humanity of the other team, whether that is in politics, religion, or even baseball.

Good_Samaritan_(Watts)

The spirit of much of our current public discourse reminds me of one of Jesus’ best known and most often misunderstood stories.

One day a religious leader, who wanted to prove that he was righteous, cornered Jesus.

The two of them agreed that the most important things in life were: Love God with every ounce of your being. Love your neighbor as yourself.

The religious guy wanted more affirmation (Insert smug grin.). He asked about the qualifications of a neighbor.

Jesus answered with a story.

A man was walking though a tough neighborhood. As expected, a group of thugs mugged him. He was left for dead on the side of the road. In the next few hours two religious leaders walked past him without offering help.

That last line surprised the religious guy. He was normally the hero of stories.

Jesus continued.

Then a Samaritan, the religious, political and cultural enemy of the Hebrews, approached the man. He stopped his trip to help the injured Hebrew. He brought him back to heath, even at great cost to himself.  

This plot twist shocked the religious leader, and anyone else who was listening. They did not tell stories in which their enemies were heroes!

Jesus solidified his point by asking the painfully obvious question, “Who was the neighbor to this injured man?”

The religious leader (Remove smug grin.) stumbled to answer Jesus and still save face, “The one who helped him.”

His answer made Jesus’ point even more clear.

The religious guy could not bring himself to say that the “Samaritan” was the hero, because he hated the Samaritans.

Jesus’ point was not “help out an injured person.” That was a given.

Jesus’ point was “Everyone, even your enemy, is your neighbor. Love them.”

Our current public discourse, including religious, reflects the hate that Jesus confronted.

When we are unwilling to acknowledge any good in a person or a group, we are guilty of hating them.

When we hate any person or group, even our enemies, we do not love our neighbors.

When we do not love our neighbor, it does not matter how right we think we are or how smug we feel, we miss what Jesus says is important in life.