The Virtue In Not Hitting Your Sister

My sister and I used to play a game that could get us into trouble. It’s called “I Hit You Last” and here’s how it’s played:

While on the couch watching TV, one sibling hits the other on the arm or leg and says “I hit you last.” It is then the other sibling’s turn to do the same. The siblings must remain fairly quiet though, or a parent will call out from the other room, “Are you kids roughhousing on the couch?” Both siblings are obligated to respond in the negative, then one sibling will reach out and strike.

“I hit you last.”

You might think this a horrid game, or merely bizarre. And some of you are thinking, “Hey, that sounds like something I used to play.”

The thing about this game that keeps it from getting out of hand is that there’s one sure-fire way to end it. Here’s the final rule of the game:

Don’t hit back.

Since my sister is older than I by about three years, I was usually the first player to invoke the ultimate rule.

A Very Biblical Game

This fun little childhood memory gets me thinking about Jesus. Not because I needed divine intervention when watching TV with my sister, but because he spoke of something similar to I Hit You Last.

If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. (Matthew 5:39.)

My sister and I didn’t slap each other’s cheeks, of course, but the principle applies. If I was tired of the game I could stop it by not hitting back, and so could she.

Some people hit or hurt others regardless of whether the victim is hitting back. This is the real application Jesus spoke to. Roman soldiers could order Jewish citizens around, and knock them silly if they felt it necessary to get the job done.

You probably won’t find yourself  being hit* by the modern equivalent of a Roman soldier, yet some people are contentious and love a good argument. Those people engage in a verbal game of I Hit You Last through their words, whether in person, through email, social media or old fashioned gossip around the neighborhood, in the office or at school.

In one of the most whiplash inducing passages in all of Scripture, the Bible tells us what to do with such foolishness.

Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
    or you yourself will be just like him.
Answer a fool according to his folly,
    or he will be wise in his own eyes. (Proverbs 26:4-5.)

Gossip is the ultimate foolishness and in the most malicious way much of the time. So the Bible tells you to ignore it and also not to ignore it. Which is it?

It depends, and that’s where the wisdom of I Hit You Last comes in. If answering the gossip is the equivalent of attempting to hit the person last, then don’t answer the gossip. But responding to the gossip doesn’t have to be an act of retribution. It might actually follow the advice Jesus gave soon after telling people to turn the other cheek.

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:44.)

There are three things in that short verse that can guide you in deciding how to respond to someone who has maligned you.

  1. Listen to what Jesus is telling you. You have the Spirit of Christ within you to guide you and give you wisdom. (John 14:26, Ephesians 1:17, James 1:5.)
  2. Love your enemies by doing good for them, because only that which is good can overcome evil. (Romans 12:20-21.)
  3. Pray for those who wrong you. Jesus tells you to do it, and it’s what he did himself. (Luke 23:33-34.)

These aren’t easy when you’ve been the victim of malicious gossip, or had your reputation attacked, or someone you trusted has revealed your secrets. Believe me, I know. There are things that happened years ago that I harbor resentment about. But I know the right path is to listen to Jesus, do acts of love for those people whether I feel loving or not, and pray for them.

So that’s what I do even when I don’t want to, and so can you.

***

*This post today is not meant to address situations where a person is being abused or similarly hurt. If you or someone you know is being abused, it’s time to call the police. Nothing in the Bible prohibits this and anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong.

***

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16 Responses to The Virtue In Not Hitting Your Sister

  1. Good post. This seems an especially helpful framework for online interactions. Though I do wish your sister had been your brother so that we don’t have to deal with the thorny issue of whether or not any game in which boys hit girls could ever be “A Very Biblical Game”…😏

    • Tim says:

      Thanks, gdc. I see what you mean about it applying to online interactions.

      P.S. As to the fact my sister was my sister, there is no issue to deal with, let alone a thorny one. We were just two kids roughhousing.

      P.P.S. Don’t tell my Dad we were roughhousing inside the house, though.

    • Annabelle says:

      My two (older) brothers and I played a game like this also. We also were very protective of each other if there was any threat from “outsiders”. I don’t see any thorns, nor any reason a girl can hit a boy but a boy can’t hit a girl.

  2. Jeannie says:

    Tim, turning the other cheek is so difficult. I appreciate how you said “There are things that happened years ago that I harbor resentment about. But I know the right path is to listen to Jesus, do acts of love for those people whether I feel loving or not, and pray for them.” Last year I was doing a Beth Moore study in which there was a part about doing things FOR Jesus vs. doing things WITH Jesus. This was life-changing for me. When we do the things you talk about here, we are doing them WITH Jesus, because this is the way He lives and loves, and we share in His suffering and come closer to His heart when we do them.

    • Tim says:

      That’s a good distinction to draw, Jeannie. When we think we’re doing something for Jesus, it can feel like we’re out there on our own and wondering if he’s noticing. When we realize that life in Christ means we get to do things with Jesus, the whole performance aspect and wondering if anyone is noticing goes away.

    • Amen. This helps me every day.

  3. Pingback: How to Deal with Personal Attacks | Tim's Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another

  4. Good post. And loved the title. 🙂 (I’m coming at ya via Cara Strickland’s comment section.)

  5. Jeremy M. says:

    I’m pretty sure I’ve played a variation of this known as the “If you didn’t react so much, it wouldn’t be as much fun” game. My brothers and I played this game fairly often. My kids have learned in their young ages to play it as well. You hit, annoy, follow, or do something to someone enough to get a reaction and if they react, you win and get to keep playing.

    As you say though, Jesus doesn’t want us to react and strike back. We kind of lose when that happens, because there seem to be plenty of people looking for a negative reaction and argument. Of course neither should we be the one seeking out to stir up that kind of reaction either, but that’s a bit different.

  6. SJBeals says:

    We always played “Gotcha last.” We need so much grace to not retaliate with our speech. Great picture lesson for our teens. May use it! 🙂

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