Bite

“For if ye forgive men,” saith He, “your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if ye forgive not, neither will He forgive you.” Matthew 6:15

… Yet some there are, who have come to such a point of brutishness, as not only to make intercession against their enemies, but even to curse their children, and to taste, if only it might be, of their very flesh; or rather they are even tasting thereof. For tell me not this, that thou hast not fixed thy teeth in the body of him that vexed thee; since thou hast done, at least as far as concerned thee, what is much more grievous; in claiming that wrath from above should fall upon him, and that he should be delivered over to undying punishment, and be overthrown with his whole house.

Why, what sort of bites are as ferocious as this? what kind of weapons as bitter? Not so did Christ instruct thee; not so did He command thee to stain thy mouth with blood. Nay, mouths made bloody with human flesh are not so shocking as tongues like these.

How then wilt thou salute thy brother? how wilt thou touch the sacrifice? how taste the Lord’s blood, when thou hast so much venom upon thy mind? Since when thou sayest, “Rend him in pieces, and overthrow his house, and destroy all,” when thou art imprecating on him ten thousand deaths, thou art in nothing different from a murderer, or rather from a wild beast that devours men.

Let us cease then from this disease and madness, and that kindliness which He commanded let us show forth towards them that have vexed us: that we may become like “our Father which is in heaven.” And we shall cease therefrom, if we call to mind our own sins; if we strictly search out all our misdeeds at home, abroad, and in the market, and in church.

John Chrysostom, Homily XIX.

John Chrysostom lived from 349 to 407 A.D., and was the bishop of Constantinople.

Each time I look at this passage, I let out a chuckle of guilty recognition as I remember a different time this passage applied to me: church, work, school. The metaphor of a mouthful of flesh may be a bit over the top, but it demonstrates exactly what our holding of grudges and use of the mouth as a weapon can do, not only to others, but also to our temporal reputations. There’s not only a Godly edict (“Thou Shalt Not”) but also an observation about natural law. It’s no way to live. Can you imagine a mythology where there are gods who are happy to hear curses of ones’ children, let alone brothers or enemies? Surely any good power ruling the universe would not be happy with such a way of dealing with our neighbors.

PRAYER: Dear Lord, let us not bite and devour one another. “Let us cease from this disease and madness”. Allow us to find ways to pre-emptively forgive those who have wronged us, and let us find ways to use our words to build up and nurture all those around us, even our adversaries, or even family members when they try our patience. Forgive us when we fall short, and let us know that all we ever need we already have in you, so that we need not fear the slightest loss of reputation that may prompt such awful biting. Let us use our voice to praise you and our neighbor. AMEN.

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