Turf wars are inevitable between churches, countries and children. Whether we fight to sit in the same pew we’ve inhabited for eons or squabble over the line of demarcation drawn between countries, accommodating others is not our strong suit. The ideologies of servanthood and meekness elude us. Let me illustrate with a simple story with which we all can identify. You know you’ve seen it. You know you’ve been there…
Yesterday I sat at the stoplight minding my own business, re-setting my iPod, scratching a mosquito bite, answering my cell phone and peeling off my sweat socks when I noticed a familiar scene in my rear-view mirror. Car Wars.
A haggard mom in her well-stuffed checkered capris mooned me at the intersection of First and Main. Red-faced and precariously perched between the front and back seats, she was hollering at the top of her lungs. Two little buck-toothed boys smeared with Coppertone and dripping with pool water were beating each other senseless. The freckle-faced, tow-headed kid clobbered his little brother in the head with a model airplane. Older brother fired back with a knuckle sandwich followed by a head butt and a half-nelson hold. Fortunately, there were no vehicles behind us, so I sat through another red light to enjoy the show. The curly-headed baby in the car seat next to Mom peacefully sucked her binkie, oblivious to World War III behind her.
Once “moon Mom” had peeled the two brothers apart, I assumed order was restored. But the fun was just beginning. Big brother, energized by the heat of battle, lobbed a Hostess Ding-Dong at Mom’s ponytail scrunchie. Enraged, Mom careened over the curb into the Walmart parking lot, ripped open the back door and tanned the hide of brother number one. I wanted to stay and watch the Mama drama, but a rickety truck filled with lawn mowers and week whackers pulled up behind me, the driver leaning on his horn.
This “all too familiar” car war jogged my memory, taking me back to sister skirmishes of years gone by. Mattresses and back seats were hotbeds of conflict for Kathy and me. We drew the “invisible line” down the middle of the bed. If either sister poked a hairy toe across the line of demarcation, hair-pulling, finger-biting and jammie-ripping ensued.
Road trips were the worst. Dad got so tired of the “my side,” “her side” quarrel that he pulled out the masking tape, measured the width of the back seat, and clarified the boundaries. This feeble attempt at preserving the peace lasted about fifteen minutes. Our rickety Rambler sedan was un-air-conditioned and the radio was broken. “Are we there yets?” started before we hit the city limits. It was a muggy June day, and we were baked and bored. Kathy and I had to entertain ourselves somehow. We started with an innocuous game of “Cracker Jack” basketball. Each player would alternate chucking a caramel popcorn piece into the open mouth of the opponent. If the candy corn hit the piehole target the pitcher got a point. After two turns, the “Cracker Jack” toss got ugly. The popcorn pelting turned aggressive and a full-out food fight was born. Dad screeched the Rambler to a halt, threatened us with an inch of our lives and re-stuffed us into the backseat.
In a last-ditch effort at tranquility, the family engaged in a rousing rendition of “The People on the Bus Go Up and Down” and “Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall” until we were too hoarse to croak. Harassment seemed to be the only activity that held any allure for us. The name-calling started first. “Pig Face.” “Blubber-Belly.” “Snot Nose.” “Son of a Snitch!”
The names got meaner and our faces got redder. Mom whipped around and warned us of impending doom. Dad tried to divert our attention once more by playing the license plate game, but we were more interested in pinching. We could poke and pester quietly without arousing suspicion. Silently, surreptitiously, we tortured each other until one of us yelped in pain. Dad pulled into the 7-11, poured enough Benadryl down our throats to drug a horse, and we snored all the way to Galveston beach.
Do you hold on white-knuckled and stubborn to your cherished opinions, never considering the thoughts and perspectives of others? Do you fight with other brothers and sisters in Christ, just like children skirmishing over toys? Do you relent or rebel? What keeps you from playing nicely with others? The “car wars” must stop!
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:10; 16-18 NIV