Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Words for Living #6 (published in "The Community Voice" January 16, 2008)

Remember the first time you saw or did something? When was the first time you saw a mouse? Don’t say the “Tom and Jerry” cartoon.

The first time I saw a mouse was at a dinner party my parents were hosting. The furry critter scampered out from behind the refrigerator and pandemonium broke loose. Several guests jumped onto chairs screaming in panic. My big brother, having probably watched too much of the previously mentioned cartoon, started throwing silverware. Mom grabbed a broom and went into warrior mode. Dad flipped one of the serving containers upside down and started stalking the terrified creature.

Finally they managed to evict the invader and explained that mice were dangerous disease carrying vermin. It was there and then that I decided we needed a cat. After all, if this was fun, then a cat would be way more entertaining. A cat would rid us of the mice and I would get the bonus of making my malevolent dog’s life miserable.

So I started to adopt stray cats. Stray cats were easy to find, most of them were starving, and someplace in my kind twisted heart I reasoned that I was doing them a huge favor. It didn’t matter that Mom was deathly allergic to cats and Dad was a dog person. The only one that seemed happy with the new cats was my brother who took to cleaning his “BB” gun. Notice I said “cats.” Mysteriously the cats I brought home would vanish. It didn’t bother me; I just picked up a new stray. Still, a mystery is a mystery that needed to be solved. I blamed my dog, my brother, and my parents for obvious reasons. Eventually the truth became clear; my neighbors were eating them. I would bring them home, fatten them up, and they would cook them up in the middle of the night and eat them. I knew this because they were stranger than my brother.

My brother was a regular pain. He was twelve years older than me and acted like he belonged to the family. Seriously, we sent him off to boarding school in another country so I figured I was wanted and he was not. He’s still fond of pulling out the tape the family was recording to send back to the USA. I interrupted the conversation and said, “What do we need him for?” Today, I know the neighbors didn’t eat the cats, I have a spoiled dog, and I love my brother.

The Bible says, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” [Romans 13:11] Apparently childish behavior was causing people to behave badly in church. Paul’s solution was “love.”

When we love someone else, we set aside our preferences and prejudices. We give the other person the benefit of the doubt. We trust them. Childish behavior kills churches. What’s in your church.

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