Common English Bible (CEB)
37 “Don’t judge, and you won’t be judged. Don’t condemn, and you won’t be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
I was going to go back to John, but the sermon on the plain has captivated me, and it needs some more of my attention, if not simply for the fact that this is lent, and we need to be prepared for the coming passion and resurrection.
I have a confession to make. Last night, I lost some sleep because I read this passage, thinking about my own need to forgive. This will be pretty personal, but if you can’t be honest about your past, and can’t confess what’s in your heart, it kind of defeats the purpose of what Jesus was getting at in this sermon. Confession is sort of a lost art, but if it’s good enough for Augustine, it’s good enough for me. So here we go.
Back in high school, I had a nickname. That nickname was Scooter. I joke that I have no idea why they called me Scooter. I did nothing to merit it, nor was it something that I chose.
The truth is, I do know why I got the name Scooter, but it has nothing to do with what the name implies. It was a name that was forced upon me. You see, back in high school, I had a nemesis. For purposes of anonymity, I shall simply refer to him here as BH.
BH was not simply a bully. No, you see, when I think of a bully, I think of someone who is of little intelligence and gets his kicks out of beating up on kids out of boredom or spite or whatever.
BH was not unintelligent. The truth was, he was incredibly intelligent. And charming. And to me, that changed my world.
You see, I had dealt with bullies before in my life; BH was not my first bully. The way I dealt with bullies before is that I’d either walk away, ignore them until they get bored, or illustrate the notion that I was smarter than them and could come right back at them with a witty remark and that would be the end of it. Usually that worked, but this was not the case with BH.
I was in the drumline in high school playing bass drum. BH was the bass drum captain. Which meant he had authority and seniority over me.
He singled me out from day one as a target. I’m not sure why it is, but from my perspective, I got the brunt of BH’s attention. It was tradition in that drumline to assign nicknames to new recruits, which wouldn’t be so bad if the method by which one received nicknames wasn’t so degrading and humiliating. I was arbitrarily named Scooter.
I resisted. I liked the name Grant. It’s a good name. I refused to be called Scooter.
Over several weeks, I realized that this was a fight that I was not going to win. Through verbal humiliation, social outcasting, and general degradation over a period of weeks, I lost my name in not just the drumline, but the entire band, to the point that even today members of the band still call me Scooter on occasion.
Over the years, I grew to accept it. I learned to own my name, and even joke about it. But beneath the jokes and the generally pleasing disposition, lay an underlying hatred of the one who gave me the name and tormented me for 2 years. I lost my name. Because of that, I felt like I lost some of my soul.
I couldn’t complain to other bandmates, or even to other people in my youth group. People thought BH was charming, funny, and while a bit mischievous, he wasn’t that bad of a guy. I began to wonder: what are these people seeing in him? Couldn’t they see I was miserable? That he was a jerk on a power trip and singled me out as his personal verbal punching bag?
The truth is, I don’t know if BH ever hated me. I do know that I hated him. I had never known hatred before him. I’d known annoyance, perhaps irritability, but never hatred. I hated him. I hated that he verbally abused me. I hated that nobody could see him for what I saw him. I hated it, and it ate at my soul.
Over time I realized that because of this hatred, I wound up taking on attributes from BH that I hated as a freshman and sophomore when I got into power as drum captain. I tried my best to not be like him, but sure enough, in some ways I almost became BH. And I realized that as much as I hated BH, I hated myself even more.
I hated myself because I was weak, that I let it happen to me, that I couldn’t stand up for myself, that I couldn’t fight back. I hated myself for taking the abuse, and in turn possibly abusing others to some degree.
The years have passed. I’ve come to terms with the circumstances of my adolescence, but on some level, I still hate him, and I still hate myself.
I realize as much now as ever that I need to learn how to forgive, so that I can be forgiven.
So here it is. BH: if you’re reading this, I want you to know that I forgive you. I pray for you. And I hope that you can forgive me for any slight I might have given you, either in this post, or in the past. I am sorry.
I forgive you, so that I can get my name back.
I forgive you, because I need to be forgiven. For my hatred, for my brokenness, and for my peace as well as the peace of others.
I forgive you. And I am sorry.