She was ahead of the times. She dyed her hair black, wore white make-up and acted depressed before it was cool to do such things. I, on the other hand, was way behind the times. I had a ridiculous hair cut, acne and I was vocal about being a Christian. During my tenth grade year, every morning during P.E. class, we clashed.
She always called me names. Not just any names. Religious names.
“What’s up, Jesus?”
“How’s it going, Messiah?”
Just to be clear, she didn’t really think that I was Jesus or the Messiah. It’s not like she tried to worship me every morning while we were playing volleyball. She sincerely didn’t like me and this was her way of making it known.
I mostly kept quiet. I just wanted it to stop. At the very least, I wanted to blend in like everybody else.
So that’s what I did. Getting a normal haircut probably didn’t hurt but I also toned down the Jesus talk. And then a strange thing happened. That girl stopped calling me Jesus. No one called me Jesus. Blending in worked.
It wasn’t until a few years later that I understood my foolishness. Christians aren’t meant to blend in. If the salt has lost its flavor, what good is it? If a light is hidden, what’s the point?
In a few weeks my son will start going to school. The plan is for his brother to follow him the year after. My wife and I will do everything we can to steer our boys away from having a bad haircut. And apparently there’s been some kind of a cure for acne because no kid today has it as bad as I did back then.
But I really hope that our boys don’t blend in.
Not in the Repent, Heathen! or Turn or Burn! sense. Anyone can do that. You don’t have to be a Christian or love Jesus to yell at people (See: Westboro). Just loving Jesus and keeping his commandments, even the ones about loving others, is enough to make you stick out. It’s enough to make people want to call you names. It’s enough to make you hated.
We start out with a tight grip on our kids. When they’re born we have to do everything for them. When they’re learning how to crawl and walk it seems like “No!” is all we ever say. But as we train them our grip loosens. It has too.
Hopefully, prayerfully, that training has been sufficient.
If it has, my kids will get called names.
Names like Jesus or Messiah.
That’s when I really hope that their training kicks in and they remember that sometimes an insult can be the highest compliment.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:11-12 (ESV)