My parents had this strong conviction that you shouldn’t leave your kids at home with some stranger. So, rather than bring in some irresponsible, teenage neighbor, from the time I was 7 or 8, I was the babysitter for my three little sisters. Now, my parents are both gone on to heaven so don’t try to report them to Children’s Services, and besides, it actually worked out pretty well, except for the time I nearly burned the house down telling ghost stories with a candle in the closet. Or the time Charlotta pointed a shotgun at me and pulled the trigger because I was sneaking around the house scaring them. I mean, really, what could go wrong with an 8-year-old babysitter?
Those early childhood “home alone” episodes did lead to some pretty bitter feuds and fusses among the 4 of us. Usually, Chonda and I would be pitted against Charlotta and Cheralyn in, what turned out to be some pretty nasty fights. (I am convinced to this day that the main reason God took Charlotta and Chearalyn home early was to deliver them from the torment of life with their siblings.) One of the worst fights that I remember involved a can of bug spray and a pretty good fastball. We had been going at it for a while, Charlotta, normally sweet and even-tempered, had enough and came up behind me while I was sitting on the couch. She had a can of Raid Wasp Killer and stuck it about 6 inches from my face and blasted.
That stuff really works! I was spitting and coughing. I am sure if I swallowed a wasp, even now, he would curl up and die in my esophagus because of the residue Raid. She exacted her revenge, leaving me blinded and gasping for air. Laughing maniacally, she skipped toward the front door to make her escape but made one tragic error. She dropped the can of bug spray. Here’s a side note. I always had a pretty good arm, even as a youngster. I picked up the can and fired a perfect strike in her direction, whacking her square in the back of the head. She went down like a shot. Blood spurted from the cut in her scalp. And I had the last laugh and the final victory…until my parents got home and caught me dipping her head in a bloody bathtub, begging her not to tell dad. Oh, those were the days.
I learned an important lesson on that day. No, it wasn’t “take the bug spray with you when you make a run for it.” It was, “YOU CAN WIN THE BATTLE AND LOSE THE WAR.”
We are in a period of time when I am afraid that we who call ourselves Christ-followers are so intent on winning the battles that we are losing the war. We are making powerful, impassioned posts on FaceBook about politics and personal freedoms. We are proud of ourselves for standing up for what we believe and shouting down those who are not living like we think they should. Many times, maybe most times, we are right in what we are saying and justified in the strong stances we take. But while we get more FaceBook likes than the other guy, and make our point in a clear-cut, irrefutable fashion, we surrender the greatest, actually the ONLY weapon we have, and the only hope of winning. We have become top-notch at arguing our side of the debate and completely ignored our strongest argument, love. Jesus said, “This is how people will know that you are my disciples, by the way you love each other.” Paul said, “Everything else will fade away, (our impassioned messages, our powerful posts,) and all that will last will be faith, hope and love. And the greatest of those three, love.” He even instructed us about how to confront one another and the world. He says we should “speak the truth in love.” I’m afraid we are getting better and better at the first part of that and worse and worse at the last.
Frankly, while there are a lot of reasons for that, one of the biggest is the blessing and curse of social media. Never before have Christians, all Christians, had the platform that we have now through FaceBook, Instagram and the like. Any single individual, by simply hitting enter, can get his or her opinion or grievance out there for all the world to see, or at least your 674 followers. (I give you this blog as an example.) Thanks to the technology of the age, we have a voice and an opportunity to be heard, like never before. And it comes with a certain degree of “hiddenness” and anonymity that emboldens us to say things in a way that we otherwise would not. Good for us! We can shout the message of Jesus to the far reaches of the internet. And bad for us, that we have forgotten the primary message of Jesus, “Love one another.”
This week I read a Christian leader friend of mine lambast the BLM movement. I am not saying she was wrong in what she said, but I thought, as I read her post, “If I was on the other side of that argument I would not be feeling the love of God in any of her words.” I read the entry of a young man that I love and respect, airing his hurt against a church leader and launching a back and forth flurry of responses where folks that I know love God, chose sides and traded shots. I thought to myself, if I were “the world,” reading this, would the Kingdom of God be glorified? I am sure that even as I write this, I am on the verge of doing the very thing I am railing against, coming across as judgmental and mean spirited while trying to “prove my point.” God forgive me.
Here is what I know. The overriding principle is found in Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other as Christ forgave you.” Whatever I write, whatever argument I make, if it misses this mark, it misses THE mark. I wrote a little meme this week (do you write memes?) My mother taught me to ask before I speak (or write) Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?
The Bible says “If another believer sins against you, post it in all CAPS on FaceBook and call the sucker out.” Matthew 18:15 TMCT (The Mike Courtney Translation) I wonder what wonderful moments of holy reconciliation we miss personally, and what devilish divisiveness we cause corporately when we run to Instagram to settle our disputes instead of inviting a friend or an enemy to lunch and talking through our differences.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God.” Mathew 5:9, not the ones with the most likes or the greatest put-downs. We are called children of God, not based on the arguments we win but the people we do.
I do not have the answers to the great divides of our world, even of our church. I do believe that we must tell people what God says and not back down from the “offensiveness of the Gospel.” But I am pretty sure that there MUST be a way to address the issues of the day in a loving, “kind and compassionate” manner. To do any less is to ultimately lose the war. And that, dear friends, is the thing we cannot afford to do. Be kind. Confront face to face. Show the love of Jesus in all you say and do. And if you need some wasps killed, call me. I’ll come over and spit on them.
NOTE: Don’t forget to download the latest episode of the podcast, “What Difference Does That Make? with Dr. Mike Courtney.” https://dashboard.simplecast.com/shows/2cfe3762-4bb7-4ebe-ad41-19ce79282ba6/episodes/dc248139-2c58-46eb-990c-40f4a8683da8/