Reading through my news-feed most mornings lately makes me want to cry or go back to bed or both. Shootings, military coups—or rumors of military coups, terrorist attacks, militant protests, race riots, violence, anger and hatred. And that’s just the early news. I look at my little boys sitting at the dining room table coloring and I wonder what kind of a world they’re growing into. What kind of adults will they become who have to digest this kind of chaos with breakfast? What kind of a mother must I be to prepare them to be adults in this dark and angry world?
I feel helpless in a world that seems to be on the edge of anarchy. Can you relate?
It would be easy to teach my boys to retaliate—eye for an eye. It would be natural to show them what a vengeful heart looks like in a me-first life. Black, white, brown, beige, one thing we all have in common is a self-centered factory setting. Survival of the fittest. Me and mine are number one, the rest of the world be damned.
But the easy road will not lead my sons down paths of peace. The easy road will not bring them joy, not the true kind of joy that is rooted down deep. The easy road will not lead them to the Cross.
Today I saw my sons arguing, my youngest becoming increasingly angry and eventually lashing out, screaming and bashing down the tower they were building together. His older brother roared and hit him on the arm. The youngest launched himself at his brother and I had to break up the tussle. This is nothing new—not for my children, not for any children really. From the beginning of time siblings have fought, and from the beginning of time parents have had to make a choice to teach peace or to let nature take its course. What do I say to my youngest, his hair flopping over his forehead and angry tears staining his cheeks? What do I say to my eldest, arms crossed over his thin chest, his jaw clenched, eyes glaring?
What do I say to my children about a world that reacts as they do to one another, imploding with the dynamic force of full rage?
The task is mine to teach the lessons of peacemaking; lessons I’m still learning myself. Lessons our world has forgotten, if it ever knew them.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).
Be kind, my boys. You will one day have only one another. There is a mysterious understanding between siblings that cannot be recreated with even the closest friends. Take care of that relationship and nurture it. Remember that words and fists hurt with equal force. Make the conscious choice to be kind in what you say and in your actions; refuse to let anger drive you apart.
Respect one another. The two of you are so different, yet you share so much in common. This is a secret truth: as different as humans are, we are the same from one corner of the earth to the other. Someone recently told me, “People speak the same language when they cry and when they laugh.” Seek to understand with compassion, seek the common ground before you make a judgement. Remember that the same Creator God who made you—so intricate and beautiful—also made each person you will ever meet. They are worthy of your respect for that truth alone, even if you disagree on every fundamental issue. When you come to understand this truth, you will find freedom to love one another, even if you disagree.
Seek to love selflessly. This may be the hardest lesson of all, my sons. The skin we live in is so saturated with selfishness that even the “good deeds” we do are often rooted in selfishness. We care more about our personal benefit—the praise we receive or even the feel-good rush—than the person whom we are helping. It’s innate. In this, my sons, you must seek grace.
Grace is defined by Webster as divine aide. I like that definition better than the church-y definition of “undeserved favor.” Grace is definitely undeserved and it is certainly favor from God, but I have an easier time grasping the idea of grace as God’s divine help. Seek His help to love one another selflessly. Seek to serve others without first thinking about your own comfort or how others will praise you when you post your accomplishments on Facebook or Twitter or whatever fad medium is available when you come of age.
The Apostle Paul wrote: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4-5).
He was right. Seek to build up, not tear down. Be more interested in others than you are in yourself. Seek to love, even when it costs you your pride. This is hard work and it can only be accomplished by the Holy Spirit changing your hearts. One day you will choose for yourselves to follow Christ and on that day the Spirit will come to live in you, to change you and mold you—if you are willing and teachable—into young men who follow hard after the heart of Jesus.
“To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. For, ‘The one who desires life, to love and see good days, must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit. He must turn away from evil and do good: he must seek peace and pursue it’” (1 Peter 3:8-9a).