“If possible, to the best of your ability, live at peace with all people.” Romans 12:18 CEB
It was a pretty normal day on the playground. Everyone was playing on the equipment, hanging out and talking, or playing an organized game. There was a group of kids playing four square. The game was getting competitive as time went on. Tempers were beginning to flare and one kid in particular was starting to trash talk—as much as a fifth grader can trash talk. This is what got me in trouble. I didn’t read the situation correctly. He was actually really mad about something, I now know it probably had nothing to do with four square. As he did his trash talking I was cracking jokes about it. The next thing I knew I was on the ground with the trash talker on top of me getting ready to hit me. This is how my first fight began.
I remember the teachers breaking us up and leading us both to the principal’s office. The principal of Angling Road Elementary School began to lecture us. He told us our behavior was unacceptable. For the record, I certainly agree that fighting isn’t the answer—it wasn’t that day. The entire focus was on our behavior. Fighting was unacceptable and that behavior needed to be corrected. The approach was punitive in correcting our behavior. There were consequences and a price had to be paid. We were punished with the elementary school equivalent of work crew.
I never had a fight again in elementary school. The behavior was corrected, for both of us, but we were not fundamentally changed because of the incident. The other kid still had a quick temper and everyone else learned to walk away. I still cracked jokes, but I learned how to better read situations. I believe the real problems were underneath all of the behavior. I tended to use other people to get a laugh. The other kid took out his problems on others through his anger and aggression. The behavior changed but the two individuals were not really any different.
How would the outcome have been different if the principal had sought to know what was really going on? (He was a great principal by the way.) The real problem was that we both were seeing other people as objects and not people. The heart of peace is about seeing the real story beneath the behavior that is presented. I have seen this time and time again in my life. The way we see people really matters. A heart at peace sees people as people with desires, needs, and feelings as real as our own.
How do you see people? How is your heart toward others? As the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Rome, “If possible, to the best of your ability, live at peace with all people.” This weekend we will start a new message series entitled The Heart of Peace. I am excited to share this message with you. I hope you will join us Saturday night or Sunday morning as we discuss the fact that peace is possible. I can’t wait to see you in church!