Sticks & Stones? (Luke 22:63-65)

 The guards in charge of Jesus began mocking and beating him. They blindfolded him and said, “Prophesy to us! Who hit you that time?” And they hurled all sorts of terrible insults at him. – Luke 22:63-65 (New Living Translation)

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me!”

This lie has been told to children for many years. (The first printed copy of the nursery rhyme was found in The Christian Recorder in 1862.) I call this a lie because, as we know, words can and often do hurt much worse than a broken bone.

Of course, the intent of the saying was to help children ignore taunts, refrain from physical retaliation, and remain calm. That’s not bad advice by any means, but the fact is that broken bones will heal; hurtful words which are spoken cannot ever be taken back.

Often the words of a stranger leave no lasting impression on us. We know that the stranger doesn’t really know us, and chances are good we won’t see him again. His words can most likely roll off us with no further consequence. We trust in the fact that he doesn’t really know who we are, therefore his words have very little power over us.

In contrast, the words that hurt us most deeply are the words spoken by those closest to us. The ones who know us intimately have the power to cut us to the core. The hurtful words they speak tend to stay with us. We begin to question our very identity because we believe that they know us so well, there must be truth to what they say. We think perhaps they know us better than we know ourselves. We take their words to heart, even if said in the heat of the moment, because we believe they wouldn’t have said it if it wasn’t true on at least some level.

In this passage, we read that Jesus is being mocked by the soldiers who are guarding him. We may quickly believe that this is like the first case I referred to – simply strangers. These guards don’t have a clue as to who Jesus truly is. They don’t know that he is the Creator and Sustainer of the world. They don’t know that he is the Son of God, sent to earth to die on the cross for their sins. They don’t know that hours from now, Jesus, while hanging on the cross, will ask God to forgive them.

While that is true, there is something more we need to consider: the guards don’t know Jesus, but Jesus knows them; that’s the very nature of God. We can’t gloss over the fact that God created these men. He knew them before time existed. He watched as they grew in the wombs of their mothers, whom Jesus also knew intimately.

These men, though they don’t know Jesus, were known by Jesus, and they are his children. He knows them and loves them more than anyone else on earth. He cares for their well-being. He cares for their eternal destiny. He cares for their families and their friends. These are not mere strangers – they are his children, created in his image.

Imagine being at the lowest point in your life. You’re literally being taken to your execution – for a crime you did not commit – and there, hurling insults and berating you in front of everyone are your children. Not only have they joined the crowd, they are leading the charge. They are actively taunting you, calling you names, and telling everyone that you are delusional. I cannot imagine that level of pain and betrayal.

Certainly the physical pain that Jesus endured on the cross was excruciating. Crucifixion was the cruelest form of capital punishment at the time. But the emotional pain that Jesus experienced – being rejected, mocked, and scorned – by the people he loves, has to be severe. Jesus loved these men and the crowds that they led so much that they were the very reason he was going through all of this in the first place! He could have called down his legion of angels and ended the torture at any time. Yet he didn’t. He stayed. He endured. And for what? For the chance to save his children from their evil and misguided ways.

We have all done things in our lives that we regret. We have all said hurtful words to our loved ones, to our parents, to our spouses. We know the sting those words have. For Jesus, the pain must have been infinitely worse. The people he loved, the people he knew intimately, were treating him like the worst type of criminal. They rejected him in word and deeds. And to this very day, men and women continue to mock and reject Jesus, in spite of his love for them. May it never be said of us that we mocked the very God who came to save us. Jesus’ physical pain has ended, but it seems to me that the pain of knowing that so many reject him would continue to this day.

What’s in a name? A pastor’s look at hate speech, name-calling, and Donald Trump

Lori.

Logan.

Kamryn.

These three names are not mere letters combined into words on a page. These names are the names of my family – my wife and kids. Each name represents something to me – and your feelings will be different depending on whether you know us or not, or whether you know someone with one of those names. For me, I hear the name Lori, and I immediately think of my beautiful, loving, patient bride of nearly 17 years. You say the name Logan, and I’m not thinking Wolverine, I’m thinking about my soccer-loving, Lego-building, boy genius. I hear Kamryn, and I’m not thinking about Kam Chancellor, the great safety of the Seattle Seahawks, I’m thinking about my amazingly gifted, sweet, caring, intelligent, compassionate daughter.

The name of a person matters.

Think of your closest friend or family member’s name. You don’t just think about how it sounds or how it looks on the page, you think about the person that name represents.

While we can all agree that names are important, and that names carry weight and power, we can tend to slip into the dangerous waters of name-calling in a negative way. In the heat of the moment, we call someone a name, determined to hurt them and win the conflict. We most often regret it later, because we realize that we have crossed the line and hurt someone we care about.

One of the basic rules of “fighting fair” in relationships is that you NEVER call someone a name. You focus on the actions and feelings, but you never stoop to name calling. That’s because it takes the conflict and makes it personal. It reframes the issue as a referendum on the individual instead of the actual issue that caused the conflict.

Think about the last time you were called a name. For me it brings up some pretty negative memories.

Yet if you look on your news feed on Facebook, you will see people name-calling up one side and down the other. You see people writing hurtful, hateful things that they may not have had the guts to say to someone’s face, yet on the anonymous (not really) internet, the gloves come off and hurtful and hateful speech prevails.

I’m frankly embarrassed by what some of my social media friends write, while proclaiming to love God and love others, as Jesus has called us. People disparage entire ethnicities without a shred of guilt. Whole people groups are mocked because of their relationship decisions. Hateful words are spoken about genders different from our own. Entire religions are blamed for the world’s problems. Memes are created mocking the left, the right, and the center. “Jokes” are said that are best left unspoken. And people are hurt, offended, and disparaged.

It. Has. To. Stop.

But it just keeps getting worse. One appalling example is Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Agree or disagree with his policies, you have to acknowledge that he says some pretty rude things. Check out this list of people he has publicly called a loser, dummy, or worse. His words and name-calling would not be acceptable under normal circumstances, yet he still has a good shot at becoming our representative to the world. Is that really how we want our president to talk about other world leaders, politicians who disagree with him, journalists who cover the White House, and general citizens who ask him questions?

Friends, particularly friends who claim to follow Jesus, we have to do better. We can’t say on Sundays that we love Jesus, and then on Monday claim that Hispanics are a burden on our economy. We can’t preach the gospel of love, and then show hatred and speak evil of Muslims. We are called by God to love all people – even, and perhaps most importantly, those who are different from us.

I encourage you to read over your personal posts for the last month, and see if you’ve fallen victim to the name calling and slander that I’m talking about. If you have, delete the post and write something positive instead. None of us is perfect, but we have to try to be better. We have to allow God to transform us into the image of his Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

In Love,

Kevin