Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sibling Rivalry

“Here, you must need this dollar more than me.” The man said with a note of aggravation in his voice. It took my lunch companion and me by surprise. We didn’t know what he was talking about, but taking a tip from Proverbs 15:1 (“A mild answer calms wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”), we asked some questions to try and figure out what had happened. Intending to be courteous, my wife had moved her purse out of the way as the man sat down in the crowded cafĂ©. This was a habit I’ve seen her do consistently through the years out of consideration. But the man, an African-American, took offense at her actions as an insult to his integrity. We talked about it, but in the end, I don’t know if he felt the respect and consideration we were trying to convey. The years and even generations of mistreatment doled out by someone with my skin color blocked the good will my wife and I wanted to show this man.

I see this tragedy work its way into the lives of my kids as well: an intended display of love is often interpreted as an insult, or in some cases as a full-out assault. I’m constantly trying to play mediator and interpreter, helping them to understand each other. But as their father, I also want them to know that I am hurt by their strife. And I’m reminded that God the Father has the same heart for each of us; He longs for His children to get along, not out of tolerance, but from love. Unfortunately, there have been so many skirmishes between races, genders, generations and cultures that we automatically interpret the simplest act as an insult. So, feeling insulted, we often respond with an insult… sometimes as a preemptive attack.

But what if we trusted God enough to withhold judgment, restrain our tendency to lash back, and allow Him to work things out on our behalf? What if we trusted in His ways, and praying as we dialogue, fight for reconciliation? What if we asked Him to open our eyes to the heart of others so we could reflect Jesus’ attitude, and by our actions proclaim “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they do!”?

Sometime back, I learned that any behavior that has not been learned has to be exaggerated before it can be understood. This is visibly true in dysfunctional families where healthy confrontation hasn’t been modeled, and it’s certainly true for the human race in general. I think that may be why the Father sent Jesus, having Him die on the cross to reflect His love. Honestly, can you exaggerate love more than that? How much greater can love be than to give up your life for your friend? How about sacrificing Your only Child so Your enemies can find life? Can love be modeled more clearly?

Unfortunately, generations of sin and rebellion cloud our understanding of this great love… and so many continue to live in a loveless darkness. How especially sad when those called by His Name fall short.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
~John 13:34-35 NIV
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