One of my greatest regrets in life happened during my driver’s education class in ninth grade. I was assigned to a car that I shared with an instructor and three classmates. One of my classmates was a quiet, attractive girl, and I had a crush on her. But she was out of my league, so instead of trying to impress her, I made a point of picking on her every day.
I can remember the instructor and the other two students laughing at my comedy routine, and the girl actually seemed to tolerate it pretty well — until the day she didn’t. That day, she was actually pushing back a little bit and coming up with some effective putdowns of her own. Eventually, I ran out of material and had no comebacks left, so I reached for the bottom of the barrel: I made a joke about the size of her chest. And the moment I did, the entire dynamic changed. She immediately looked down and got very quiet. There was a little bit of nervous laughter in the car, but the battle was over between us. I had won. She had lost.
In the remaining class sessions, she stayed quiet, and I felt guilty. But the damage was done, and as I got older, the episode haunted me more and more. I knew what it was like to get picked on in high school. I remembered feeling perpetually insecure about the ridiculous things kids found to make fun of: my teeth, my gait when I ran across the parking lot, the fact that I was in choir. And I hate to admit it, but long into adulthood, I gave some of those critiques power over my sense of confidence and self-worth.
Unless you’ve spent your entire life being popular and well-loved, there’s a good chance you can relate. You still hear your dad making fun of you in front of his friends; you hear the other guys joking about your acne scars; you still take on the identity of “fatty,” even though you’re a normal adult size now.
It’s time to move on, and that’s not going to happen by revisiting the offense over and over again. We do have to go back in time though — to a bloody cross, 2,000 years ago. At that cross, we’ve mourned our own sins, celebrated the fact that we’ve been forgiven, and declared that our sins have no more power. Well today, let’s try something different: Let’s celebrate the forgiveness of other people’s sins. Let’s declare the truth that in the blood of Jesus, the sins committed against us are gone and have no more power over us. Let’s take the names — fatty, flat-chested, nerd, sissy — and release them into the wounded side of the Savior who’s been so gracious to us.
It’s time to live in the reality that “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, ESV). Let’s let go of our status as a victim and live in the eternal reality of our freedom — a freedom that was hard-fought for us and those who have sinned against us.