Everyone’s going through a refining fire sooner or later, but you’ll be well-preserved, protected from the eternal flames. Be preservatives yourselves. Preserve the peace. Mark 9:49-50
Preserving peace should be our goal as believers, but it’s been hard for me. As a professional athlete, I competed every day, and I pitched with something you could only describe as aggressive, competitive anger. I wasn’t joking around out there, and I didn’t feel bad for the hitter.
When a game was finished, I had to switch out of that mode. That could be really hard to do. Sometimes I had to go out into the world before I’d finished putting the competition away for the day. In those times, I relied on God’s grace to get me through.
One night after a game, I was going to my car with my wife and one of our sons, who was five years old at the time. We were with a couple of friends and their three daughters. Our son stopped to do something, the way that little kids do. My wife turned to help him and get him moving again. But she was pregnant, so she didn’t move as quickly as usual.
There are employees of other companies that use the player’s parking lot at Giants stadium. They park there as visitors. That night, when our son stopped and my wife moved to help him, we accidentally got in the way of a guy who was also leaving for the night, a guy who didn’t work for the Giants. When my wife went to help our son, a couple of things the guy was carrying got knocked to the ground.
I didn’t know it was because of us, but I tried to help him pick them up. He didn’t look at me. He ripped his stuff out of my hand and shoved past my family. He didn’t even say thank you.
As he shoved past us, I saw him mouth at my son, “Get out of the effin way.”
I stopped him. I said, “Excuse me. Did you just say that to my little boy?” He got defensive, so I said, “I think you did, because I watched it come out of your mouth.”
Now, we had just lost a really close game to the Dodgers. I was still in that competitive mode. And then I saw him say that to my son. He only mouthed it, but I got really angry. I needed to protect my little boy! So I was definitely not in the mood to preserve the peace. I was in fight mode. In fact, I was going to chase after him. I was going to punch him in the face. I was going to knock him out.
I turned to tell my wife to get in the car and wait for me. Instead what I saw was my son and those three little girls, looking up at me. The second I saw them, I knew that they came first. So I simply said, “Alright, let’s go guys. Let’s get in the car.”
Imagine what could have happened! Just for an instant, I wanted to do something to that man that was definitely not going to preserve peace. It wasn’t going to help anything beyond satisfying my desire to compete and win.
I have the Spirit in me, but I’m still a flesh-and-blood man. I still have issues. I still fail. I don’t always do the things I should.
But God always gives us an out. We just have to look for it. In the passion of the moment, it may be hard to see, but He always gives us an out. That night, God gave me those children. He gave me the grace of those four pairs of eyes looking up at me, waiting to see what I was going to do.
I think there are going to be times when I have to protect my family, but this wasn’t one of them, and I could see it. God told me, “You can go after that guy and teach him a lesson. You can take that route, and there will probably be a bunch of people saying you were justified. But I’m showing you that there’s another way.”
I’m thankful for that night. I’m thankful that God helped me preserve the peace. I will always prefer God’s way over the ways of men. I don’t want to aggrieve the Holy Spirit.
Also, I’m a dad. I want to be a faithful father to my sons, the way that God is a faithful father to me. This was a chance to show my son that it’s possible to turn the other cheek. Five year-olds act out in anger. That night, God let me show my son that he can handle conflict without resorting to hitting or punching. I got to help my son learn that!
Even though we got in the car and drove away, my adrenaline was still pumping. This was more grace from God. He gave me time to cool off, and that gave me a chance to think. Is turning the other cheek the same as doing nothing, and moving on as if nothing had happened? I don’t think so. Jesus taught us that we must be preservatives in this world, and preserve the peace. To do that, we need to address conflict and resolve it. Peacefully.
So I decided to find the guy’s employers at the park the next day, so we could talk it out. And that’s what I did. Think about it. How much better was it to talk, instead of fight? I settled the conflict with no broken noses and no broken hands. I relied on honesty and fellowship. I preserved the peace.
It was beautiful. That’s how we should do it.