“Love is not rude” (1 Corinthians 13:5)
When I was in college, some friends and I–Kristina included–made a pledge to stop being sarcastic. You know about sarcasm, I’m sure. I’m tempted to be sarcastic every time someone comments on my car:
“Wow that’s a small car.”
“Really? I knew that car salesman was lying when he told me it was a minivan!”
Sometimes sarcasm comes on bumper stickers:
“Don’t judge me because of my relatives”
Or how about: “You mean this is ‘work’? I thought that Satan simply installed florescent lighting because coal was not as ecologically sound.”
You get the point.
Well, the experiment in college actually went quite well. In fact, it sensitized all of us to sarcasm, and many of us who made the pledge still refuse to use sarcasm even today. Sometimes I try to be sarcastic, and it doesn’t come off right. I have lost the ability to be sarcastic actually. As my wife often confirms, “I only think I’m funny.”
Many of us take sarcasm to be innocent fun, but at the root of it s the Greek word, sarx or “flesh.” To use sarcasm, even in good fun, is always to do so at someone’s expense. Because of that, it is likened to the “tearing apart the flesh” of someone’s personhood–it is subtle, but it can also be violent and, at worst, abusive.
Let me ask you: If we always mean for our sarcasm to be in jest, then why do we tend to use sarcasm more in situations in which conflict is hiding just below the surface?
The Bible says that “love is not rude.” The King James Version puts it another way: Love is not “puffed up.” The only time I am tempted to be sarcastic with someone is when I’m upset, so it seems that our definition of good fun may be nothing more than the need to get “puffed up” by insulting, and so deflating, someone else.
Love is not rude.