(Image courtesy of tech.uk.msn.com)
The more I think about that conversation, the more I think about all the ways in which our children and youth are bombarded by painful words. They flow forth from bullying peers, from adults who take offense to the sight of them without knowing who they actually are, and from those that should love them, but instead abuse them verbally. It used to be that you were only bullied in person, but, thanks to technology like cell phones and the internet, you can be bullied in the safety of your own home. We tell them not to take it personally, not to let it hurt them. “Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you.” Yeah, right.
Adults know how deep the wounds are made by harsh, insensitive words. Ask the woman with low self esteem whose husband always tells her how fat she is just because she put on ten pounds. Ask the elderly man who is told by someone decades younger that he doesn’t know anything. Ask the teenage girl who is continually the object of obscene cat calling because she physically developed earlier than her peers. Ask the young man who is publicly berated because he cannot throw the ball with proper form. More than anything we are stripping one another of our humanity, dehumanizing them until they become nothing more than objects of derision for our own issues with body image, impatience, ego, gender expectations, etc. Christ, who knows us better than we even know ourselves, could really rip into us, but instead he offered words of Grace. Hanging on the cross, he would have been absolutely justified in railing against us for our blatant sinfulness that hung him there, but no. He looked down from the cross and said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34 NRS). Maybe we should follow Christ’s example and extend some grace to those we take offense toward when we don’t really know what’s going on inside them.