Luke 6:27 & 28, “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
What can our civility do? What can you do with a penny? My wife and I were at our middle son’s high school this week and an Assistant Principal stopped to chat with us, and he told us a little story about our son from a week or so before. If you know our family then you’re acquainted with our second son, an amazing young man named Josiah who happens to have a diagnosis of Autism. We are so proud of him, as we are proud of all three of our sons. This story is just a little confirmation of our pride and an affirmation of the teachings of Christ. Civility really does change things for the better.
The Assistant Principal was telling us of an incident of another student who decided that day to harass Josiah. Unfortunately, students struggling with Autism and other challenges are often targeted for bullying. They both ended up in the school office and the Principal instructed the offending student to apologize to our son. He did, and the Principal said Josiah crossed his heart and accepted the apology… then said, “What a sec!” Josiah reached in his pocket and pulled out a penny and, handing it to the other student who had harassed him, he said, “Here, just a little something for good luck!”
The principal dismissed Josiah back to class and said the other student broke into tears and had to sit down. He asked the student why he was crying and the boy said, “I was so rude to him, and then he did that for me!” Of course, I want to sit and cry, too. I want to cry for all the bullying happening in schools across our nation today, to cry for the love and pride I have for my son, and to cry for the times I have repaid evil with evil instead of showing the strength and beauty my son showed that day.
Oh, and I’m going to stop scolding Josiah for picking up every coin he sees on the ground. I had no idea the significance he placed on a penny, or the kind of gesture he might make with one. Many of us would have a hard time saying we have an “enemy” to whom we might apply to words of Jesus, but the reality is that our kids often do.
What Jesus set in motion among us to change the cycle of incivility needs to come to fruition in our lives. It’s just too easy to want to punish the bully. It’s too easy to hate the offender. It’s too easy to let our base emotions rule the day. But when we wander into this new kingdom, when we cross the boundary into a new place of grace and forgiveness, we change the world, even if only one soul on one day. I want to be worthy of that Christ, worthy of such a kingdom, worthy of my son.