Several weeks ago Vicki and I had to run a few errands in Sioux Falls, one of which was to return something to Sears. While were there we decided to have lunch at the Café Court. Vicki decided she was going to get something from Taco Johns and I decided to eat at Subway. Well, as I was cutting through the dining area, I noticed one of our members from ARC and so I stopped to chat with her. After visiting with her for several minutes I turned to make my way to Subway, and when I turned around, I was immediately struck in the chest by someone I had never met before. With as much force as he could muster, he jabbed both of his hands into my chest and he began cursing at me.
Obviously taken back and confused I grabbed the guy’s arms as he tried to jab me again. Not sure what the attack was all about, I asked him if he had mistaken me for some other person. After cursing at me some more I asked how I had offended him, but he said nothing, so I just let him go. By this time, some bystanders had called the Mall Security and after visiting with him, the officer came and checked if I was OK, assuring me that I shouldn’t have to worry about him—although if he bothered me again just to call for help.
As I reflected on the situation, I thought the whole thing seemed a bit strange. It felt evil. Why would a person do such a thing? There had to be some misunderstanding. Because of the suddenness of the violent attack, I wondered if I responded in the right way. Maybe I was way too easy on the guy, he wasn’t that big and so I could have easily inflicted some pain on him. I began to wonder if God was my shield and protector, why would he allow this to happen to me? What would you have done?
As I thought more about this experience, I sadly realized this type of attack happens all the time. It happens in our families, our schools, our workplaces, and even right here in our church. No, not the physical jabs to the chest, but rather the attack is done verbally. We cut and jab with our tongues.
Often times the verbal attack is in response to an offense, but I believe most of it’s the result of a misunderstanding. Confrontation and conflict resolution is a very difficult situation to handle, and therefore highly emotional. Because it usually makes a person extremely uncomfortable, the attack most often ends up being excessive.
Jesus understood this truth, so he laid out some guidelines in Matthew 18:15-17. Here are the steps:  “If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend. If he won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won’t listen, tell the church. If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love.”
I like Jesus’ wisdom. I hope you do too. If someone in my family offends me, I like to go talk to them first. I do my best to avoid creating triangles with other brothers or sisters. And rather than attack and accuse, I first seek to discover where there might be a misunderstanding. And I haven’t found it helpful yet to send them unsigned letters—they never seem to figure out that I am the one who has been hurt. And then even if we can’t find a solution, I always try to err on the side of grace.
May you and I always seek to walk as Jesus walked.
In the dust of the Rabbi, Mike

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