One Christmas we were decorating our church lobby, and I was working further inside in the building. A church volunteer came to tell me a man was out front who “wanted a word with the pastor.” I can promise you, these words never bode well for anyone in my profession. So I took a deep breath and walked with resignation into the lobby toward my impending fate.
I didn’t recognize the man, but he looked irritated. He explained that one of our postcard-sized advertisements for upcoming Christmas services had been placed on his mailbox. Evidently it had been there for several days and the glossy area had melted onto the side of his mailbox in the heat of the sunlight (Florida problems!). He then produced the offending postcard—Exhibit A,and waved it about two inches from my nose.
His voice was low and menacing, and his eyes squinted as he stared at me. I expected at any minute to hear the distinctive whistle from a Spaghetti Western soundtrack. Everything about his countenance was saying, “Okay, take your best shot, Pastor…”
Before he could yell “Draw” and reach for his gun, I immediately apologized. I agreed that having that postcard melt onto your mailbox was an undeserved hassle for him, and I immediately offered to pay for a completely new mailbox to replace the old one. His eyes suddenly widened, and he said with surprise, “I don’t think that would be necessary.” But I insisted that something must be done.
When he said he thought the mailbox could be cleaned, I promised him that if he gave me his address I would personally make sure the mailbox was cleaned. After writing down his address, I shook his hand and apologized again for his trouble and thanked him for bringing the problem to my attention.
Within another day’s time I was outside his home with my bottle of GooBGone, scrubbing down his mailbox. After the sight of a pastor giving your mailbox a complete makeover, I think he was probably sorry he every brought it up. What’s funny is I sincerely believe this gentleman was disappointed with my response. While walking him toward the church’s front door, he looked like a deflated balloon. It may just have been the sudden ebb of all that adrenaline he had built up toward our confrontation. But I couldn’t help but wonder if he was somehow sad I didn’t fight back.
I’m noticing more and more people today are looking for a good fight. Going through my Facebook page is like sidestepping land-mines, with so many polarizing politically statements demanding my agreement. It’s as if they are saying, “I’m going to be so extremely opinionated that you will be forced to either agree or fight.”
The Bible says, “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14)”. I think that means being Christlike to others will demand me overlooking a lot around me. Granted, there are some things that are worth a disagreement. For example, I will never apologize for what the Bible says. But I should always “speak the truth in love” and not give people a true cause for offense.
So on minor issues that don’t involve a person’s eternity, I may choose to walk away from a fight. Please don’t think it is because I am a coward—I believe it is the opposite. A strong man doesn’t feel the need to beat down a weak challenger. Too many Christians feel the need to defend God as if he’s some weakling who needs their help.
Seriously, if your god is that weak, he’s probably not worth defending.
In the ministry, we have a code for when church people around us say or do something stupid. As pastors, we’re not expected to insult or ridicule others, and my own sense of humor is often misunderstood by some churchy people. So when pastors hear someone say something really dumb, we will usually just smile and remark, “Well…bless your heart!”
In pastor-speak, that means, literally, Wow, what an idiot!
Understand that I have just revealed a huge trade-secret, much like a magician letting you see how he sawed the lady in half or the Colonel giving up KFC’s secret recipe. You’re welcome!
But let me ask you…how much better of a Christmas season would we all have if we just decided to overlook some people’s goofiness around us? If we simply “cut our FaceBook friends some slack” and didn’t let them know exactly how crazy their last post was? What if we looked at that lady who just cut in front of us at the CVS counter and all sighed in collective resignation and mercy, “Bless her heart?”
That’s what I’m determined to do, not just this Christmas, but all the time. But if you disagree and would like to take issue with my opinion here, then with all the love and joy of the season bursting from my heart, I have only three words to say to you.
I’ll bet you can guess what they are…