(The following is the June 7 devotional from my Next Step Devotions book. Before reading it, I suggest you read Acts 24 and pay close attention to verses 1-9.)
Have you ever been called a derogatory name? Many remember childhood moments when we were called hurtful names. Even as adults, if others call us something negative, we recall the false statement: "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Words can hurt deeply, and the wounds can last.
If we are fortunate, we acquire nicknames from friends and loved ones that bring smiles to our faces. As the skinniest teenager I knew, my closest friends called me “Runt.” It was a term of endearment done in fun, and they are welcome to call me that today (as some still do fifty years later). Likewise, I was known as “Blue” by college students I ministered to through my church, a name given to me because of an older movie character who hung out with college students. I still wear the t-shirt they presented me with the character’s face and the phrase they directed at me countless times, “You’re my boy, Blue.”
Unfortunately, the names thrown at Paul in Acts 24 were not kind. Paul’s accuser said to the governor, Felix, “We have found this man to be a plague, an agitator among all the Jews throughout the Roman world, and a ring-leader of the sect of the Nazarenes” (v. 5). Paul’s accusers lied to get him into trouble with the government, and using negative labels was among their tactics. Labels often libel.
We don’t like being called derogatory names, but as Christians, we must prepare ourselves for verbal and perhaps physical attacks in a world increasingly hostile to Christ. Spurgeon noted, “Pare down the gospel, cut away its angles, draw out the lion’s teeth, and then you will be friends with the world. But hold the doctrines of grace, bring forth the atonement, speak out plainly, have your convictions and state them, and soon the hounds will be after you full cry.” *
Have you been called names for being a Christian? If so, how did you handle it? How do you hope to respond if it happens in the future?
* CSB Spurgeon Study Bible, ed. Alistair Begg (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), 1502.