The line between friendly banter and a word filled war is often very fuzzy. As I listened to the exchange between two colleagues, it was hard to know what they were trying to say to each other. On one hand, it could have been friendly banter filled with sarcastic observations about the history between them. Alternatively, there was a reasonable chance that the exchange could be best categorized as an exchanged of poison tipped spears! Either description could have fit. By the end of the exchange, it looked as though one side was moving forward as if they had just emerged from a joke gone bad while the other sat bitterly nursing his wounds and plotting on how he could finish the battle at hand (winning of course). From my vantage point, everyone lost.
The lessons emerging from the experience were layers. First, there are bad people out there, just looking to get you. In one scene from days gone by, “some men from the meeting place whose membership was made up of freed slaves, Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and some others from Cilicia and Asia, went up against him trying to argue him down.” (Acts 6.9) There was nothing honorable about their intent.
Second, just because bad people attack you, it does not mean that you need to engage in the battle. With words, it takes at least two to create a battle.
Third, even if war, one needs to determine how one fights. It does not need to be personal. One can defend, even fight, with compassion. One can look to restore, in any situation.
I am not suggesting that one should always rise above conflict. Sometimes conflict is necessary. I am not suggesting that conflict is, in itself, evil. I believe acting with compassion, mercy, and with a goal of restoration is one of the most challenging, difficult, and demanding tasks a human being may be called to engage in.
Today's encounters are yet to be realized. Each will be an opportunity to embrace another's heart and act with integrity. It is a new chapter.
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