When I was a teenager, my friends and I spent many summers helping out with Vacation Bible School programs at each other’s churches.
I’ll never forget the year my friend Amy and I tried to teach a first-grade class to love their enemies.
“Do you know what you’re supposed to do with your enemies?” I asked our innocent young charges.
“Kick ’em in the balls?” suggested a little boy named Stephen.
I told Stephen that wasn’t a very nice word.
“Oh. Well, can I say, ‘Kick ’em in the crotch?'” he asked brightly.
While Amy literally crawled under the table to keep the kids from seeing her dissolve into paroxysms of laughter, I told Stephen that it was mean to kick people.
“Jesus says you’re supposed to love your enemies,” I explained.
Stephen — who obviously relished being the center of attention — wasn’t particularly interested in what Jesus had to say on the subject, and he interrupted the lesson several more times to assure us that a kick to the crotch “hurts really bad,” but that “it doesn’t hurt girls.”
I thought of Stephen today as I was reading about Pastor Terry Jones of Florida, who is planning to hold a Koran-burning rally on Sept. 11 in the name of Christianity.
Jesus was very clear about how he expected his followers to treat others:
“As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.”
— Luke 6:31
“Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
— Matt. 22:39
“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
— Matt. 5:44
I could go on, but you get the idea.
Like little Stephen, Pastor Jones seems to think it’s OK to kick people if you don’t like them. Like little Stephen, he seems to enjoy using shock value to win attention from his peers. And like little Stephen, he doesn’t seem terribly concerned about Jesus’ opinion on the subject.
Little Stephen eventually grew up. Perhaps Pastor Jones should do the same.