I am as guilty as the next person of saying some unkind things about those with whom I disagree. In fact, you could probably search the archives of this blog to find ample examples. To be honest, though, I am more careful publicly than I am in the confidence of close friends.
I believe it is perfectly natural (and okay) for us to have strong opinions and to disagree with others. It is okay to critique another person's opinion or work. We are able to disagree with other people's methods and ideas. It is a sheer fact of existence that two well-meaning, intelligent people can come down on opposite sides of an issue.
We should not, as Christians, critique someone in such a way as to demean them as a person. In our desire to make our point or stance stronger, we move from the position, idea or method and belittle the person or group that holds it. Rather than simply disagreeing with someone's position or opinion, we feel we need to attack them personally or imply that everyone in their field is like that.
Take for example: The wonderful practitioner who belittles everyone who teaches in the universities for being out of touch and disregards their opinions because they are academic. Or, the university teacher who belittles the wonderful practitioner because is not well thought out. Or, the small church pastor who criticizes the large church pastor for selling out and being interested only in crowds. Or, the large church pastor who states that small church pastors have no vision, leadership, or are somehow inadequate. The list could go on and on.
It is not just reserved for people in particular fields. The atheists do it to the Christians. The Christians do it to the Muslims. The Republicans do it the Democrats, and vice versa.
It is not enough to state our own position...we have to belittle the other person.
How about James 3:10-12?
I believe we each have a role to play. I don't have to denigrate the University/Seminary Professor just because I disagree with his position. I don't have to put down the atheist just because she chooses not to believe in God. I don't have to insult the Republican party just because I disagree with my Senator.
I believe for me to "love my neighbor" as myself, it must be most apparent in the way I speak about and deal with those with whom I disagree. I must work to be above reproach in my speech toward those I dislike. It is imperative that Christians disagree with passion in order to gain more insight and develop better ideas and solutions. But we must do it in such a way that values the input, ministry, style, and perspective of the other person.
I, of all people, will not be perfect at this, but I want to do the following:
1. Assume the best of other people. I want to believe they are out to extend the Kingdom of God and that they have the best of intentions in holding their beliefs and opinions.
2. I want to believe that each person is living obediently to God. I want to believe that each person has sought the voice of God for their life, and that where they are in life is a result of them obediently following God.
3. I want to disagree and critique in a way that affirms the other person. I don't want to belittle the other person simply because I disagree with their opinion or method.
We have a responsibility to be careful with our speech toward others. Words, biblically speaking, are like weapons. They cut people. They can do irreparable damage. When we speak out blessings and curses we cannot take them back. We can apologize, but they have been spoken.