No, I don’t mean watching two guys in shiny shorts punch each other out on television wearing big, padded gloves. I mean you, another person—usually a family member—and some verbal jabbing, sarcasm tossing, mud slinging exchange to try to prove your point?
I do. I’d like to think I come by it innocently as my father has always loved to debate and is very persuasive with his words. Well, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Unfortunately, the apples keep falling in our family and I have offspring who too love to argue.
Now in our defense, most times we can keep it together with people who are not members of our family. You know, “speak kindly….turn the other cheek….do not pay back evil for evil” sort of stuff. It is in our own family that we seem to let it all hang out. My husband calls it “throwing flesh balls”. As believers, we are supposed to be walking in the spirit, tempering our words and reflecting Christ. We know in our heads that is the right thing to do. In reality, sometimes it just feels good to toss a flesh ball or two.
However, often I wonder, what are my kids seeing? A huge contradiction! “Mom held it together with that guy who cut her off in traffic, the lady in the little league stands who was being totally obnoxious and the dry cleaners who completely ruined her new sweater, but man does she let me have it!”
This is not good.
I have been in the habit since my college days 25+ years ago of reading a chapter of Proverbs every morning that I can. That Old Testament book has 31 chapters. Most months have 31 days. Perfect plan!! I switch versions every year or two to glean even more understanding. You might want to try it yourself. Well, just recently I switched back to using the NIV version I used years ago.
It was the 17th of the month. I was reading chapter 17. I had just throw a whole bucketful of flesh balls at my husband to prove my point and prove him wrong. It was over something really important. Uh, oops….maybe not….since I now cannot remember what it was about—probably the proper way arrange condiments in the fridge door or some other globally crucial such thing. (I forgot to mention….I like to argue over trivial matters. I’m pretty good at the big stuff. It is the nitty-gritty, daily grind where I come unglued sometimes.)
But I digress……At any rate, I came across verse 19 and it reached up and slapped me across the face:
“He who loves a quarrel, loves sin”
YIKES!!! That is me!!!!!! But, I am a Christian. I am supposed to love God and hate sin!!!
I decided right then that this needs to stop. Not to mention the whole apple dropping thing. I don’t want generations of Ehmans who could make the Hatfields and the McCoys shake in their boots! So I have begun to memorize verses that will slap me in the face before I can reach back and start my wind-up for a new inning of flesh ball pitching. I know God’s word is what can keep me from sin. I have seen it work in so many other areas. But you know what James says about the tongue…..(If not, go read the third chapter of that small but powerful book).
I am also trying to help one of our sons, who can actually out-argue both Grandpa and me, to see the danger of going down this same road. We had a chat before his dad, brother and I went on a recent overnight to a hotel for a speaking engagement that I had. I asked him to make an extra effort to get along with his brother and not argue over the nerf football at the pool, debate over who grabbed the bigger slice of pizza, and waste time bickerin’ when they could be having fun. For good measure, I threw in that wonderful verse:
“How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!” Psalm 133:1
And it worked! We had a great time and there wasn’t any strife between the boys during that entire 36 hour period! On the return trip home, my little apple offspring and I were walking together in a parking lot when I leaned over and whispered to him, “See….isn’t is good and pleasant, just like the Bible says, when you and your brother get along?” He nodded his head and smiled. But then, after looking off into the distance for a second, he turned back to me and said…. “But it is enjoyable to throw a good punch every now and then too!”
Oh, my!!! Time to assign some memory verses to the kids too!
Sweet Brotherly Blessings,