“Sticks and stones can break my bones but names will never hurt me”.
The year was 2nd grade and I clearly remember chanting this well known proverb at some kid on the playground as a rebuttal for the names he was calling me. If memory serves me right, I think he called me fat. I may have been many things in my life, but fat was never one of them. I grew up as a stunt double for a string bean.
Years later, I still remember the hurtful words and the sting I felt as they were hurled my direction. As I look back at that proverb, I realize now it was a lie. Names do hurt – sometimes even more than a stick or a stone. And sometimes – the names that hurt the most are not the names that are true – but the names that are not. No one likes to be called a name but worse than that, no one likes to be misrepresented or have our character or integrity questioned.
Years ago I wrote an article for a local Christian magazine that clearly upset one of its subscribers. This reader, a woman, wrote a long, nasty letter to my editor complaining about my article and was outraged that I would be given such a broad audience given my particular views. In fact, before this Mom had signed her name, she placed my influence in the same dangerous category as cult leaders Jim Jones and David Koresh and serial killer, Charles Manson. What a group to be associated with! I marveled at how one person (me!) could be viewed so differently. To most, I was a Christian writer merely trying to encourage the masses in their journey. To her, I was contemporaries with psychopathic murderers promoting dangerous ideologies.
This dichotomy drew my attention to the Person of Christ. There is no Person in history that had a more polarizing effect on those He encountered. Surely He would understand the frustration of misrepresentation:
- The holy One was confused for the evil one (Matthew 12:24).
- The heavenly One was assumed to be a mere earthling (Matthew 16:14).
- The Lord of the Sabbath was accused of being a Sabbath breaker (Mark 3:1-6).
- The Truth (John 14:6) was called a liar (Mark 2:6).
- The Innocent (Luke 23:30) was declared guilty.
- He created the world (John 1:3, Hebrews 1:2, Colossians 1:16-17) that rejected Him.
- He governed the universe (Hebrews 1:3, Colossians 1:17) while allowing a corrupt political system to govern Him (John 18:12).
If anyone understands misrepresentation, it is Christ. If anyone can empathize with a maligned character, He can. If anyone knows how it feels to have His words twisted, His commands misunderstood and His actions misinterpreted, He gets it. And how did He handle this constant frustration? How did He deal with such gross injustice from such an inferior and ignorant people?
With silence. (Mark 14:61)
The all-powerful God of the Universe chose silence.
No excuses. No defense. No justification. No rebuttal. No cross examination. No name calling. No sarcastic retort. No biting criticism. No cursing. No complaints. No bargaining. No threats. Not even a disrespectful question.
Just a holy, deafening silence.
Why not defend Himself – especially when He was on trial with a charge punishable by death?
Why not explain His actions with His intimidating, thunderous voice?
Why wouldn’t He reinforce His words with a flash of lightning or some show of power?
Why not turn His accusers into a newt?
In other words, why wouldn’t He handle this injustice in the same way any of us would? I can only come to one conclusion.
He simply trusted God to vindicate His situation. He was confident that God, in His timing, could right His wrongs. God, somehow, would be His sufficient defense. He took His Father at His word, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay.” (Deuteronomy 32:35)
There is nothing more carnal and natural in the heart of man than revenge. There is nothing more gratifying to the flesh than paying back an immediate wrong – especially if the payback is verbal. And when we enter the revenge business, we immediately stop walking by the Spirit and begin walking in the flesh. We stop living by faith and we start living by sight. Revenge is what anyone can do in their own power. It’s the natural bent of a natural heart. But trusting God to handle it, in HIS time, in His way – that takes a level of dependence and obedience and trust that only those who walk in the Spirit can pull off. This was not only Christ’s desire but His only plan – a plan that defies reason, logic and sense to flesh walkers.
How many of us have been mistreated by a boss or co-worker? How many of us have endured the abuse of a parent, spouse or ex? How many of us have been disrespected by our children or a neighbor or a stranger? How many have had things said about us in court (even the court of public opinion) that simply are not true or entirely accurate? Have you been called a name recently? Has someone said untrue things about you? Has your character been assassinated or your integrity questioned? Has someone doubted your word or accused you of wrong doing? Have you or your actions been misinterpreted or misrepresented?
You’re in good company.
As Solomon once penned, “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven— A time to be silent and a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7)
Perhaps it’s time to grab the dusty weapon of silence off your shelf and see what God can do with it when you keep your mouth shut.
His words, not yours, are life-giving and can change hearts, minds, lives, nations and events like NOTHING else.
Trust Him in the silence.