Monday, July 25, 2016

It's Wise To Leave Some Things Alone

Have you noticed some people do better remaining quiet and simply observing life instead of always feeling “called” to intervene in the personal business of another person? 

I was traveling with a group into the old Soviet Union a few years before it collapsed.  My traveling companions were pastors, ministry leaders and travel agents who were offering their services for the teams we would send into Russia. In route we had an overnight stay in Helsinki, Finland where we would catch an Aeroflot flight into Moscow the next day.

We had time in the afternoon to take in some tourist sights so a pastor I had just met suggested that he and I take a ferry out to one of the islands to visit a museum and historical site.  After spending a few hours hiking around the island we returned to the dock to await the ferry ride back to the mainland.

On the dock was a group of young Finnish men.  They were having a great time that included a day on the island filled with a good deal of beer drinking. I remember having friends like this when I was a young man. It seemed familiar and non-threatening. They were loud and boisterous as the beer released higher levels of conversation volume and the occasional good-natured pushing and shoving match that young testosterone-driven young men engage in.

The pastor I was with seemed to have led a sheltered, religious life. He was a good man, but from spending the day with him I discovered he was upset about so many things in the world. His confrontational view on life was formed from within the walls of the church, not in the streets where your opinions get tested and challenged with more than words.

One of the young men on the dock was a large muscled man who could easily be the stunt double for the movie Thor. He was 6’3” and weighed about 250 pounds. There was very little fat covering his abundance of muscles. My nervous pastor friend was concerned the rough housing the men were involved in would lead to someone getting hurt. He did not realize what he was observing was simply the way some men relate to each other. He said to me, “I think they are going to hurt each other.” I said, “No problem. They are just having fun.”  A few moments later the pastor said, “I am going to ask them to stop.” Before I could grab my naïve friend by the arm he was up and standing in front of Thor putting his hand on Thor’s chest pleading with him to stop the rough housing.

Thor reached out and grabbed the pastor by his collar and lifted him up on his tippy toes and yelled something into the pastor’s face and threw him back on the dock.  I wanted to laugh, but held it.  When the pastor returned to my side with his face drained of blood, I said, “What were you thinking?”

Today, review what offends you. Maybe the problem is not the behavior you are seeing. Maybe the greatest danger on the dock of your life is your attitude, not the actions of those you feel led to confront. Ask yourself, “Is it really worth the conflict?” I bet, some of what gets under your skin is considered normal by those you feel led to confront. I’m not talking about the obvious stuff like violence and other forms of harmful conduct, but those things you and I are not familiar with because of our cultural isolation and lack of exposure. I never saw Jesus jumping in to stop a lot of what took place in His world. One of His most profound moments was when He knelt down and began to draw something in the dirt as a cultural conflict swirled around Him.

On the dock that day, I knew what was happening because I grew up in that world. My insulated pastor friend could have learned a lot about the culture where he was a guest had he simply asked someone or took the time to watch before he reacted in ignorance.  To this day I am happy Thor had enough wisdom to not throw my pastor friend into the cold waters of the Gulf of Finland. Our ferry ride back to Helsinki was unusually quiet. I am sure my new friend was rethinking his worldview.

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