Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant's name was Malchus.) Jesus commanded Peter, "Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?" ---John 18:10
(Summer, 1970's). I couldn't wait to get to dinner that night. I'd just "stood up for Jesus" and wanted my friend and mentor, Francis Allen, to hear all about the encounter. Over dinner in his home, he and Norma listened as I regaled them with a debate I'd had with my boss at a part-time job pasting up the local newspaper. Somewhere in the story I made sure to highlight how I'd "thrown a ruler across the room" to indicate my indignation. I was absolutely certain Francis and Norma would be beaming with pride since "I'd struck a blow for Jesus" with this belligerent and taunting unbeliever.
Norma smiled at Francis and patted his arm, then got up to leave the room to the two of us. Francis sighed, and then we talked. The essence of that conversation? "That's not how we (Christians) do things here (on Earth), Randy."
I was devastated and confused, much like Peter must have been when he drew his sword to protect Jesus and lopped off Malchus's ear. Jesus stopped him cold, and even miraculously reattached the ear. His message: "That's not how we do things here, Peter."
I need to hear this reminder often, in part because it's so easy to ignore my own flaws by focusing on someone else's. It's also important for me to be reminded because I've always had this desire to do something memorable, and striking a blow for faith or for the weak feels like fertile territory for stand-against-the-current actions that might qualify as significant. More important than these personal quirks, however, is the realization Iā??m disappointing Jesus when I abandon a loving demeanor even in the face of evil.
It's difficult to realize Jesus doesn't need me to protect Him, and that God doesn't need me zealously berating a person, institution or culture in defense of His Word. When God wants a public spokesperson, He calls out people He specifically gifts with the ability to speak without obscuring the grace and mercy available to those who donā??t yet know Jesus as Savior. For most of us what He wants is for us to pay attention to Him as He tells us "that's not how we do things here."
When my mind travels back to that table with Francis, it crosses a plane filled with passages from Scripture that call me to meekness, forgiveness, love and mercy: "Judge not"; "turn the other cheek"; "if asked to go one mile, go the second"; "don't throw a stone if you sin, too"'; "speak only with love as a motive"; "deal with the log in your own eye instead of the speck in another"; and others too numerous to list.
The upshot of all of this emphasis on our own relationship with Jesus is a realization lost in the rancor of debates and stances: Love is the only thing that looks different; grace and mercy are gifts not only to be received but to be reflected in the way we live and act and speak. Our lives should draw others to Jesus instead of driving them away.
As John the Baptist said when those around him noted Jesus was drawing bigger crowds: "He must increase, I must decrease."
And that, Jesus says, "is how we do things here".