Monday, January 15, 2018

"The Reality of You-Know-Where"

Matthew 11.23a Wuest Expanded NT

“And as for you, Capernaum, you will not be exalted as far as heaven, will you? You will be caused to descend even to the depths of misery and disgrace in the unseen world,…”

If your name is Capernaum, you might take offense at the words of Jesus. In plainer English, the Contemporary English Version translates this verse:

“People of Capernaum, do you think you will be
honored in heaven? You will go down to hell!

Jesus never took a class in “Proper Etiquette for Aspiring Young Messiah’s.” Threats of damnation have never been effective in building a loyal following. Nobody wants to hear words like “hell,” or told they are going there.

In my home, even terms like “stupid” or “darn” are off limits. If I ever even started to utter “Go to hell” the wrath of my family would rise with the fury of you-know-where. Once I said “damn” while working on a project that wasn’t going well. My son, eight years old at the time, apparently overheard me. Pointing at me with tears squirting from his eyes, Robert cried, “You said a bad word!” I was so ashamed. My wife, when she was alive, taught us well. There is no need for words (or attitudes) like these in the home.

Yet, Jesus threw etiquette to the wind with His unpopular denunciation:

“You will go down to hell!”

Nothing about the text implies a softness in voice or manner as He passed decisive judgment on the “people of Capernaum.” Jesus loved the people of this small town on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Clearly our Lord was worried for their eternal future and delivered His indictment with grave concern over the fate of the people He cared for.

This, of course, is completely unlike my attitude whenever I have said (or thought), “Go to hell.” Jesus used bad words for a positive purpose. I do not. My attitude is irritation, discontent, and resignation. Jesus said bad words to convey love, concern, and caution. You could say my bad words are actual grounds for His!

What I admire about Jesus is His absolute disregard for the etiquette of His day. He was not politically correct. His was not a policy of appeasement. Today it considered impolite in cultured society (except as slang) to even whisper words like “hell,” “sin,” or “eternal damnation.” Try it and you will quickly learn the meaning of other words like “ostracize,” “weirdo,” and “friendless.”

If I had the courage to adopt the attitude of Christ and loved the “people of Capernaum” (Portland, Beaverton, Tigard, or Hillsboro) as Jesus does, I would risk my reputation, as Jesus did, and warn them of the reality of a place Jesus wants everyone to avoid.


Nitewrit said...


If you did I bet you would hear a lot of words back that you don't use.


Dave Scriven said...

I think you may be right!