In John 18:10-11, we find this: Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath.”
As I read this scripture this morning, I was reminded of middle school. For me, middle school was where the after school fights started. My elementary school in my rural community was more controlled. Plus, everyone knew everyone; so, if it got back to your parents or guardians that you were fighting, you’d have to face the consequences. But in middle school, we traveled to the “big city” of Walterboro, which was 20 miles away, to attend the county’s school that brought together people from all over Colleton County, SC.
One of my cousins told me that from six grade through high school, because I was the only child from my family, I’d have to fight one person at the beginning of each year to have peace the rest of the year. His words were prophetic. Each year, I’d have to make a decision to fight in order to not be bullied for the rest of the year. Most of the time, the fight was with a boy who touched me inappropriately on the school bus.
One year, however, the fight was with a pair of sisters from a family of fighting women. By the time I got to twelfth grade, there were only the two of them left. I remember the day they started picking on me. I was so glad that their older sister, the toughest of the group, was no longer in school. Then, I realized that I would have to fight them or be bullied by them, and everyone else, for the rest of the year.
Unlike the previous times, this could be more than hand-to-hand combat. The sisters were known for carrying razor blades and potash, lye-based mixture, which burned the skin. I had neither. I had to think fast. I had to prove that I was tough without getting hurt or getting in trouble for hurting someone.
As I sat on the school bus thinking what to do, one of the sisters stood and breathed heavily in my face while the other stood in her seat and over my head. They boxed me in so that one move on my part meant that the fight would be on.
Finally, I used the only things I had available to me, my mouth and my eyes. I mustered all the courage I had in me and said something like, “If you don’t get out of my face, I’ll kill you.” Now, I had no intentions of killing anyone but I had to make it seem like I was just as crazy as them or else, I’d end up with a scar or a burn before I got home that day.
As I held my gaze steady and calmed my shaking frame, I watched a miracle happen. The sisters backed down and returned to their seats. And, they never bothered me again after that day. To be honest, I don’t know why that worked. I definitely was at a disadvantage. Even the bus driver didn’t mess with this crew, probably because she had seen the work of their family when she was in school. I was waiting to be taken to the hospital, but I got off at my stop, fully intact.
I’ve never forgotten that day and to this day, that is how I handle conflicts, without physical combat. I hate drama and fighting. I hate when people can’t love each other. It absolutely breaks my heart when folks would rather hurt each other than love their neighbors. But, God also told me that my mouth can be a weapon; so, I’ve been trying a more peaceful way the older I get. I am still a work in progress.
This scripture reminds me of my commitment to a nonviolent pathway, to include my mouth and my mannerisms. I think when Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath,” He was giving Peter and therefore us, permission to handle conflict another way, a better way. For Peter, he had to trust the process – the will of God that Jesus die for our sins. For us, in this current day, in this current place called the United States, we definitely need to be reminded of this lesson.
And, while it is very hard, we who call ourselves believers in Christ Jesus are expected to respond to life the way Jesus would – from traffic jams to jams in Congress, from family drama to drama in the workplace, from friend issues to issues in the body of Christ. It’s hard, but that’s what we signed up for when we gave our lives to Christ.
Fighting, in my humble opinion, has never really solved anything except determine who has the best weapons – whether missile or mouth, whether tanks or tricks, whether fighter jets or favors. We all lose when we use what we have to hurt each other. And, I know that every time I let conflict get the best of me, I hurt God’s heart. We all do.
Today, as you reflect, think of all the conflicts in your life and ask yourself the question, is there a way to follow Jesus, Our Way to Solve Conflict.