I’d like to write about something that has been on my mind. I don’t know how it is for other writers, but one of the things I have learned about myself through writing is that when I take the time to write my thoughts about a particular subject down, I LEARN it. It gets cemented into my mind, and from there, travels into my heart, where, as usual, it bounces around for a while, before settling in, finding its place in my life.
Today, I’d like to write about contempt, but just now, I almost wanted to stop writing this post, because you see, my mind likes to hold people in contempt. Oh, I could make all sorts of excuses, but let’s face it, the thoughts I often have of others can be nothing if it is not contempt.
On the Mount, Jesus talked about contempt. Matthew 5:21-26 specifically points out the view Jesus held about contempt. The Law told us not to murder anyone. Jesus told us not to murder anyone’s dignity. I think many of us have trouble with contempt. After all, the moment we start thinking “That man is an idiot”, or other things such as, “What an ass, I was in line first, and he just cut me off”, we are holding someone in contempt.
How many of us can say we have done this, and done it fairly regularly? How many of us can say we think these things of people almost without even recognizing what we are doing? I can say it.
Just the other day, I was looking at a truck to buy (didn’t buy it), and I was talking with a salesperson, who was talking down at me as if I were a child. Immediately, my mind went into overdrive, and I began thinking, “What a fool, if he only knew how smart the man was whom he was talking down to, he’d realize that intellectually, he can’t hold a candle to me”.
I have some questions. Where was the love? Where was the compassion? Where was my mercy and grace when I was thinking these things? They were non-existent in that moment. Instead, I became this man’s judge, sizing him up and passing my verdict. I do that often, and it’s going to stop. Not because it’s a law, but because my heart just can’t take treating people like this anymore, even if it’s only within my mind. You see, it doesn’t matter if it’s in the mind, or spoken out loud, the damage is done because of my attitude, not necessarily because of my actions. You can murder someone without driving a knife home, and all you have to do is think.
If I am a disciple of Jesus, then contempt must have no place in my heart. But how do I get there? Well, one way I get there is by writing about it, by bringing it into the open, and dealing with it. I am sure I could run away from this and claim, “if I actively do something about it, then I am only trying to EARN God’s grace, and I know I can’t do that.” Rubbish!
Evil reigns when good does nothing to stop it. And I can do something, without making it into an idol. If I am going to claim that I love my neighbor as myself, then I think I shouldn’t stop until I’ve loved every neighbor, not just the ones I like, or the ones who puff me up, and agree with me. Contempt has absolutely no place in the life of a follower of Christ, no place at all. I could wait until it happens “naturally”, but I know it would never happen. Repenting means changing one’s mind. Well, my mind has been changed, as has my heart. The actions that follow will spell that out.
We can make excuses, or we can do something about it. But I find that to love my neighbor, I have to be my neighbor. And if I am my neighbor, then how in the world could I hold him in contempt? How could these little thoughts sneak their way into my mind if I loved my neighbor?
Contempt is not the kind of thing you hear about when a judge threatens to hold us in contempt of court. It’s a much simpler thing. Contempt is anything we think or say to a neighbor that places us as their judge, and as their superior. Contempt is standing in line in the supermarket, IMPATIENTLY waiting for “goof” in front of us to remember the PIN number for his bank card, and all of the thoughts that go along with that impatience.
Contempt is silently demeaning the driver in front of us, whom we don’t even know, for driving too slowly when we are in a hurry. “Don’t they know we are in a hurry?” Contempt is looking down upon a set of beliefs, or a way of doing things that is opposite of our own superior and “right” way of doing things. Contempt can come in many forms.
But contempt is most clearly this, the “attitude” that what you do is better than what the other person is doing, that what the other person is doing is an affront to your will. Contempt is the anti-love, and a person who holds another in contempt can never love that person until contempt is gone. Contempt is present in marriages in huge amounts, it shows up in all the judgmental ways we view our spouse, our friends, and even our children. Contempt is much more present than any of us really want to admit.
The question is, what are we going to do about it? We can wait for contempt to leave “naturally” because we believe that God will fix everything wrong about us. But somehow, I don’t think it’s going to be that easy. Somehow, getting rid of contempt is going to cost us something, it’s going to cost us our high opinion of ourselves. But have faith, because the very breath of life that is our faith has already led us to realize that we aren’t good at all. If we have been made to believe this about ourselves unto salvation, will it really take effort to live it out finally toward others? Or will it just take the inward transformation that has already happened in our hearts to bleed to the surface of our skin?
I hate it when I am contemptuous. Before recently, I never even realized I WAS contemptuous. See how far already we have come? It won’t happen naturally, because we are contemptuous by nature. Since we know this about our nature, can we now live as though we know this? And if we live as though we know this, as if everyone we meet is above us, higher than us, as if we are their servant, will there any longer be room for contempt?
A HEART FULL OF LOVE HAS NO ROOM INSIDE OF IT FOR CONTEMPT. SINCE GOD HAS ENTERED YOUR HEART, RECEIVE HIS LOVE TO THE FULLEST, AND LOVE WILL BE THE ONLY TENANT OF YOUR HEART.