Friday, August 19, 2005

Name Calling

So, I am into that mode of prepping for my sermon again this week. I seem to notice a trend with last week and this week. Jesus gets into some name calling.

First, he calls a Syrophoenecian woman (Canaanite) a "dog", see the text here.
Second, he calls Peter "Satan", see the text here.
Third, I remember Jesus calling the Pharisees some not so flattering names, reference this text and this one.

For some reason I thought it was about being called names and being persecuted for my faith when I was in grade school. Wasn't Jesus persecuted, ultimately facing death? Isn't my call to be Christ-like and be prepared to "lay down my life for my friends"? So what should we make of this mess of name calling that Jesus gets into in these passages.

Undoubtably Jesus was trying to make a point. When he was talking to the Canaanite woman and calling her a dog, that was the common name among the people for the non-Jews, the gentiles, and the fringe elements. Did he just get caught in colloquialisms, or was there something more that was intended?

When Jesus turns on Peter and calls him Satan, which I can only imagine was a brutal cut to Peter who had just been praised by Jesus not 10 verses earlier in the text, Jesus has found the most cutting remark he can. How does that square with the understanding of Jesus as loving and redeemer? What are we to do with this when Jesus calls his most trusted Disciple, the one on whom he is going to build the church, his greatest enemy, and ours? Where does that leave me, who is still just trying to follow Jesus daily, and teach others, without the daily conversations with Jesus like Peter had?

As for the pharisees, we want to vilify them time and again. The truth is that Jesus was one of them, and respected them - otherwise he would not have been allowed to teach in the synagogue as he had opportunity to do on several occasions, or had the kind of friendships with the Pharisees that we see with Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. And he calls them a brood of vipers and foxes in different occasions, and rains down a throng of woes upon the pharisees and teachers of the law. That is tough stuff, and hard to stomach as just one of those same kind of people.

Just wrestling with the name calling this morning, and the fact that Jesus does it. What happens if I turn around and do some name calling - in my congregation? to the jerk in line at the supermarket? to another pastor? Is this then okay? In what circumstances?

Thanks for the room to ponder and question



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