farleyWhen I was in college (many years ago) I was driving with a friend and someone cut us off in traffic.  I called the guy an idiot – because that’s just what people who cut you off in traffic are.   My friend chastised me for the comment – “you know Jesus said that if you call someone an ‘idiot’ (Matt. 5:22) you won’t be able to escape the fires of hell, right?”  Yikes!  That little lecture from my friend has stuck with me for over 30 years.  I always (kind of) cringe when that word comes out of my mouth, even if there’s no one in the car to hear me.  In the overall context of the passage however, Jesus is referring more specifically to the heart attitude that generates venomous, mean-spirited  name calling.  “Idiot” here is just considered to be among the more popular name-calling options.

Dictionary.com defines “idiot” as an “utterly foolish or senseless person”.  No one wants to be called an idiot – well, at least until fairly recently.  During their pennant drive in the 2004 season, the Boston Red Sox embraced the term “bunch of idiots” – bestowed upon them by their teammate Kevin Millar – the self-appointed lord of the idiots.  He said it referred to their reckless style of play on the field (never being able to keep their always dirty jerseys tucked in) and their rowdy carousing together like a “bunch of fools” off the field.  T-shirts were made, fans held up signs in support of “our bunch of idiots”.  It was endearing.  The Red Sox of course went on to ride the wave of that momentum and win the 2004 World Series – reversing the almost century long “curse of the Bambino” in the process.

Last week, another baseball “idiot story” went viral.  This time, the “idiot” was one player – Jeff Francoeur, a 10-year Major League veteran who this season has humbly accepted a demotion to the minor league El Paso Chihuahuas, the San Diego Padre’s triple A affiliate.  Francoeur was the unwitting victim of a prank by his teammates that lasted for several weeks.  He was told by the coaches and players that one of their pitchers was deaf, and that he needed to be sure to mouth his words clearly when he spoke to him.  Everyone, including the pitcher’s wife, played along.  In the video recap below, Francoeur is mercilessly called an idiot (repeatedly) by his teammates…and, oddly, it’s endearing.

When my wife and I were first married, I worried about her coming to realize that I am, indeed, an idiot.  Sure enough, she did. It didn’t take her long.  It bothered her at first, but I think she’s come to love that about me.  After I do something stupid (which is daily) she looks at me and smiles and says “You’re an idiot”.  She’s speaking truth about my fallenness (and cluelessness) but there’s acceptance in her voice.

In the Francoeur video, you can hear that acceptance in his teammates’ tones.  Perhaps it’s okay to call someone an idiot when you simultaneously communicate that you kind of love them, too.  “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you” (Romans 15:7).