From the Christian Parenting Corner


Learn About Name-Calling From The Apostles
by Sylvia Cochran


Whispering fools,
I seem to be surrounded by
Whispering fools,
I seem to be hounded by
Whispering fools. (1)

Anybody who has been a Christian for more than five minutes will be able to tell you that certain words, and even figures of speech, are off limits. Examples include obscenities, coarse joking (2), and name-calling (3).

Yet, once the five-minute old baby Christian matures a bit, s/he is likely to read a bit more of the Bible and finds that not all interactions are “sugar and spice and everything nice”, but that there is sarcasm, name-calling and worse — perpetrated by the very heroes of the faith! The now more seasoned disciple will find her/himself gaping down the crossroads…both of which appear to lead into the mist… Is the Bible contradicting itself? Is Jesus saying to do as He says, but not as He does?

Consider, for example, the interaction Jesus had with a group of Pharisees who earnestly warned him to hide out because King Herod was going to kill him. Jesus replied to their concerns, “Go tell that fox, I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I reach my goal” (Luke 13:32).

It is interesting to note that the connotation for “fox”, in the vernacular of the times, denoted a person known for his treacherous behavior.

So what is the Christian to do? Accept that there is a double standard? Pretend s/he didn’t see those Scriptures that go against everything and anything that s/he thought Jesus should be like? Or, perhaps, s/he would be better served by a more practical approach:

  • recognize Jesus for who He really was
  • the Son of God God incarnate
  • without sin (even though He was tempted!)
  • loving us to the point of death

Considering these attributes, the questioning disciple should now take stock and see her/his own attributes:

  • Child of God by adoption (made possible by Christ’s sacrifice)
  • Originally separated from God by the very sins s/he committed
  • With daily, or more accurately, hourly sins
  • Loving conditionally those who love her/him back, while striving to be “nice” to those who aren’t

At this point, the maturing disciple will notice that the similarities between her/him and God are slim to none-existent. Perhaps now will be a good time for the Christian to realize that s/he does not have what it takes, namely the unconditional love that Christ possessed, to claim a piece of the judgment seat that houses Christ. At the same time, s/he will do well to learn that an attitude of righteous anger is reserved for those who are righteous, i.e. Christ, not for Joe & Jane Sinner. Thus, Jesus calling Herod a fox is a matter entirely different from Joe calling the President an SOB.

Yet, what of the Christians who are in the day to day battle? What of the Christian whose repertoire includes such words as “heathen, fool, idiot, looser, etc.”? Is s/he, as the Bible states, in danger of the fire of hell? Well, the latter is for God to know and for us to find out; however, here are some practical suggestions to make sure we remain on the narrow road and do not cross over to the much easier, broader, path:

    • Remember that there is a God and we aren’t He. Jesus could call a man a “fox” and a “child of the devil” because He was holy and His humility toward God was untarnished by human anger. There is not a man or woman alive who can make the same claim.


    • Understand that there is anger and then there is righteous anger. Yes, we mere mortals may very well experience bouts of righteous anger, but these are few and far between; if our everyday vocabulary includes the terms “heathen, viper, and fool”, and if we use these terms with an alarming frequency and outside of the scriptural context, we are doing nothing but calling someone a name — which is not a Christ-like activity. For example, while the New Testament records the term “fool” as having been used by Christ to describe a person with a foolish attitude, the disciples only used the term in reference to themselves. They did use the term “foolish” in their description of others’ actions (or lack thereof) but they never called another man a fool! Hence, the Christian will do well to abstain from this rhetoric as well.


    • Come to grips with the mission God has given you: to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey everything Christ commanded. (4) Not only is this a tall order, but so that a non-Christian can recognize us as being disciples, Jesus commands that we love one another as He loved us. This is to be a clear sign that we are truly His disciples. (5)


    • What is love you may ask? Well, I’m glad we’re finally getting down to that: in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul spoke in detail about love.


  • Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

So what does this mean for the Christian Parent? It means that we resist the temptation to call our next-door neighbor (who prays to his Christmas Tree) a fool; instead, we show her/him in the Bible where it says that his behavior is foolish. (There is a world of difference between a noun and an adjective, trust me!)

It also means that next time we don’t agree with our neighbor’s stand on gossip, we don’t call her/him “duplicitous” or worse; instead, we show her/him in the Bible where her/his behavior is referenced thusly. If we cannot find it in the Bible, then perhaps s/he didn’t offend God but only us and we need to let it go and work on loving her/him a bit more.

It further means that next year when that same neighbor prays to her/his same Christmas tree, we still don’t go out there beating her/him verbally into the ground, but instead it means that we exercise our love for her/him by gently correcting her/him and patiently sharing the good news with her/him. Who knows, s/he might recognize us as disciples!

1. Whispering fools, Zero Zero, produced, arranged and conducted by Mike Batt. © 1982 CBS Records. Epic is a registered trademark of CBS Inc.
2. Ephesians 5:4
3. Matthew 5:22
4. Matthew 28:18-20
5. John 13:34-35

Sylvia Cochran

Sylvia is a writer, born and raised in Germany. Having been exposed to a variety of religions and traditions due to travel and study, Sylvia has been a student of the Bible for more than ten years and has for the last four years taught in small groups about Biblical principles, practical Christianity, Christian parenting, as well as the spiritual use of money.

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