"Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don't repay evil for evil. Don't retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it."
- 1 Peter 3:8-9
(New Living Translation)
Sometimes families have ... well ... interesting times of communication. If you have brothers or sisters, or if you have children, you know what I mean. Sometimes, it seems like the next world war has broken out in your living room. People yelling, feet stomping, doors slamming, people loudly mumbling words of disgruntlement so that others can hear their obvious dissatisfaction. Now, most of you have well-adjusted, perfectly peaceful families, so only those of us with completely dysfunctional families will understand this scenario ... Right?
Truth is, no matter how we try to get along with others, there will be days when our words pass each other like trains on crossed railroad tracks headed for disaster, and we just can't seem to be heard or to understand the other person's issues. "What's the problem?" we might ask in complete innocence, not understanding that something that we have said has set off land mines in the other person's playing field, and they are now retaliating out of anger and even hurt.
The Apostle Peter understood this constant issue with communication problems. In Scripture, on more than one occasion, Peter would make a statement that completely seemed out of left field, or was said with good intentions, but was quickly rebuked or even misunderstood by others. I wonder if Peter felt like we do sometimes ... when we just can't say the right thing, no matter how hard we try?
In this letter written to the Christian "siblings," Peter talks about actions and reactions appropriate for a Christian lifestyle. Peter encourages siblings to have unity of purpose with other siblings (being of one mind), gentleness and compassion (being tenderhearted), and to not think too highly of oneself (having a humble attitude). He also speaks about the ways we react to others. Don't add fuel to the fire by retaliation, bringing up the past to justify or qualify an argument in the present (repaying evil for evil). Fight fair. Don't add insults of character to disagreements about actions, even when other people insult your character.
God has called us as Christians to encourage and "bless" each other, not to "bless out" each other.
We are responsible for both our actions and our reactions. Let us remember whose we are as we serve others, even when we disagree and have challenging moments of communication.
Is there someone in the faith family that you need to approach differently?
What would Jesus do?
The Rev. Jan McCoy can be reached at email@example.com.