One night during the middle ages, two warriors in full armor were riding along separate paths, each thinking no one else was around for miles. In the darkness of a heavily wooded forest, however, their paths crossed. Both were startled and each misinterpreted the movements of the other as gestures of hostility.
They began to fight each other, each believing he was under attack and must defend himself. The conflict grew more intense until one knight succeeded in knocking the other off his horse. Now having the upper hand, the knight still on his horse drove his lance through the fallen man’s heart with one mighty surge. He then dismounted and limped over to the adversary he had just killed. He pulled back the face mask and there, to his horror in the pale moonlight, he recognized his brother. He had mistaken a family member for an enemy and had destroyed him.
The way you choose to see others makes a big difference in the way you act toward them. You may remember the story of Cain and Able in the Bible. Cain sidestepped God’s question, “Where is your brother, Abel?” (Genesis 4:9) When God asked about his brother’s whereabouts, Cain had a grace-filled opportunity to model what it meant to be a responsible member of God’s human family.
The way you choose to see others makes a big difference in the way you act toward them
He could have answered, “I have done a terrible thing! I killed my brother, forgive me!” Can you imagine the life-giving results that would have flowed from that kind of response? Yet Cain refused to take any responsibility toward caring for his brother. He stubbornly rejected to be accountable in any way for the well-being of his brother. You might be thinking, my brother, my sister, neighbor, friend, and coworker needs to take responsibility for their own lives. Certainly they must. Each of us needs to take responsibility for our own lives, and in some matters you and you alone are responsible.
Yet, God’s question to Cain implies that, in certain respects, we are to be our brother’s keeper. This is the journey that God invited Cain to travel. It is the journey He invites us on as well.
How might you strengthen or restore your relationships as you care for others?
- Make the first move. Take the initiative. Don’t wait for them to come to you; you go to them. You be the peacemaker.
- Listen for the hurt. If you want to connect with people you’ve got to start with their need, and that means you’ve got to start with their hurt.
- Focus on reconciliation, not on restitution. Can you have a loving relationship without agreeing on everything? Of course you can. You can have reconciliation without resolution of every issue because some things you’re always going to disagree on. If you learn to disagree without being disagreeable, that’s called wisdom.