Ed, my old neighbour in Saskatchewan, likes to label folks. He says everyone is into name-calling. He claims it was one of the useful things that he learned in school. One kid at high school was as tall as a giraffe and was called Stretch. My old neighbour said if I had been there, I would have been called Minnow. When I asked Ed what his nickname was at school, he confessed it was yappy. He felt that he did not talk a lot; he was not annoying like a noisy dog.
When we call someone a name, it can go both ways. It can be accepted or rejected. Sometimes we go beyond what is okay to what is untrue. I am old, so
you can call me old, but don’t call me senile. Some folks dismiss all old people as being senile. Not every person who goes to church is a hypocrite. Not every high school student is using drugs. We need to be careful what we say about others because our words have the power to hurt or discredit others falsely.
Around election time, it’s hard to know who is telling the truth. Political parties get away with it because we do not put a high value on the plain truth. A very tall person is just that not as tall as a giraffe. An adult giraffe can grow to be 14 to 19 feet tall. As people, none of us is stretching up to that height. We tend to exaggerate as if the truth is not enough for us. People will be both very tall and very short. Most people fit in between the two extremes of tallest and shortest. The truth is that we are not too tall or too short, we are just what we are.
When we do not like someone, we may stretch the truth about them. We may go beyond the fact to what is hurtful. The opponents of Jesus did not believe Jesus was the Messiah and dismissed him as deluded when he claimed to be one with God. They instead thought that he was one with the devil. To his face, they challenged Jesus asking: “Aren’t we right in saying you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?”
They knew he was not a Samaritan, but a Jewish rabbi from Nazareth. They were calling him a despised person, a Samaritan, to dishonor him. Samaritans and Jews had a long history of holding each other in disdain. His enemies dismissed what Jesus said or did as seeking glory for himself. Jesus said that they did not honor him because they did not know his Father.
Jesus put the focus on who they claimed to be their God. Their God was the God of Abraham. Jesus said to them, “My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me.” He told them that they didn’t know God but that he did and that He, had existed before Abraham was born. His enemies picked up stones to stone Jesus, but He slipped away from them. They would eventually kill Him, but that did not change the truth that He was and is God’s Son. Believe it or not. (John Chapter 8)