I’m not sure how many of you follow the sport of basketball, particularly the NBA in the United States of America. Many years ago, there was a playoff basketball game between the New York Knicks and the Washington Bullets (now the Wizards). During the game, one of the Bullets players came up behind the great basketball legend, Walt Frazier, and punched him in the face.
Incredibly, the referee called the foul on Frazier! But Frazier didn’t complain. His expression never changed. He simply called for the ball and sunk the next 7 straight baskets to win the game. He did not take revenge but channeled his emotions productively. Young people, you can choose how you react to situations, even those you have every right to get upset or angry about.
All of us have had our friends make biting remarks to us before, whether intentionally or unintentionally. And the saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is not true. Words do hurt. Unkind remarks do cause pain in our hearts. But we can decide not to respond in kind.
I want to read you some verses from the Bible, God’s word from the book of Romans chapter 12. Verse 14 says, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” Verse 16 “Live in harmony with one another…” Verse 17 “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.” Verse 18 “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
However, the question is why? Why should I forgive? Why should I extend grace to the person who has hurt me?
Years ago, when I was in Secondary 3, I had a classmate by the name of Edmund, who sat diagonally in front of me in class. During the change of period, we were just fooling around, playing tug-of-war with my metal ruler. When the teacher came into class and was about to start lessons, I wanted to get my ruler back. But Edmund was still clinging on to it. So after several attempts of asking him, I just decided to yank it back with some force.
What I didn’t know at that time and what didn’t intend was I had accidentally cut him as I pulled back my ruler. When school was dismissed and we were leaving class, Edmund jumped me from behind. He hit me, my spectacles went flying, and Edmund stood in front of me with his fist clenched and he challenged me to a fight. What would I do?
It was surreal to think about it back then (it was almost like a scene from a John Woo movie… slow motion), but all of a sudden, Jesus’ words just flashed into my mind, “But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” So what I did was, I said, “Edmund, you’ve hit me, shall we call a truce?” And I stretched out my hand in friendship. Edmund looked at my hand suspiciously. Maybe he thought it was it trick. But eventually he reached out his hands, we shook hands as friends and parted.
My good friend told me afterward, “I could have never done what you did.” And I told him exactly what had happened and the thought that crossed my mind. And looking back on this incident, I really believe it was God who helped me respond in that manner. Here’s the thing, I always tell students. What would have happened if I had fought Edmund? Worse case scenario: we get reported to DM for fighting. Even if we did not get reported, what would happen the next day when we went to class. Awkward. We would be seeing each other day after day for the next 2 years. Instead, when we got back to class the next day, it was as if nothing had happened. We were still friends.
So I repeat the wisdom of God in His Word for this morning. “Bless those who persecute you… live in harmony with one another. Repay no one evil for evil… if possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Why? Because there is already far too much strife, too much fighting, too many wars in our society and our world today, and we can play a part in reducing them. Why? Because it is better to win a friend than gain an enemy. And each and every one of us can play our part by not reacting, but responding. In this way, we can reduce the tensions, the misunderstandings, the quarrels, the fights in our school and enhance the friendships and camaraderie amongst us. I think this would be something worth working towards, is it not?
One last thought: you know Jesus’ words about turning the other cheek? He was speaking in context of teaching about the kingdom of God. He was saying sons and daughters of God’s kingdom live this way. This is the way of life in God’s kingdom. And those who have received grace and forgiveness from God are to extend grace and forgiveness to others. [Let’s pray]