Monday, December 13, 2021

Avoiding a Holiday Fist-Fight

Suggested Reading: Matthew 5:38-48

A few years back, I did something I didn't think I would ever do. I went to Wal-Mart's Thanksgiving Day sale. My wife and I wanted a couple things for the kids that were on sale and so we braved the crowds. We each found the things we wanted and stood patiently near our items, waiting for the employees to open up the tape hiding the items on sale. When they finally broke the tape, I thought I had suddenly entered a zoo. It actually sounded like a bunch of zoo animals when I stopped to listen to the sounds of the store. But I was close enough to be near the stack and I grabbed my items fairly easily. Standing there, I realized that people were going crazy to reach the small $4 items I held in my hands. So, as people started approaching the stack, calling out for the item in short, frantic yells, rather than grabbing my items and bolting, I stood there calmly handing out the sale items to those who wanted them. One lady, so intent on having to fight her way to the stack seemed to think I was attacking her when I reached toward her with the item she wanted. After a moment, she realized I was offering the item to her, said a confused, "Thank you," and moved on.

When I got home and thought about the experience, these verses came to mind. “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. ’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles" (Matthew 5:38-41, NLT). When Jesus taught these precepts sitting on that hill, they stood out because they consisted of both unexpected patience and undeserved kindness. Now, Jesus was talking about people who were either hostile to us or demanding things of us but the principle is the same. We should do our best to surprise people with acts of kindness and patience, both because it is right and because it affects people.

That woman who received the sale item from me was genuinely taken aback that someone was helping her obtain her item instead of competing with her for it and trying to shove her out of the way. She seemed to slow down, at least for a moment, and remember that Christmas isn't supposed to be pushing and shoving. In some small way, my act of kindness and patience was contagious. Jesus understood that all our acts of kindness and patience are contagious and that a multitude of such acts could change the world.

As you manage the stress of the holidays, deal with people at work or at school, or simply interact with your family, remember to act with unexpected patience and undeserved kindness. You never know when those acts are going to rub off on someone.

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