image by You Tube/Caters
Stepan, orphaned when his mother died in the forest, was adopted by the Panteleenko family in Russia, and 25 years later still lives with them. The kicker—Stepan is a bear. A grizzly bear—one of the most fearsome predators on our planet. He picnics with them, cuddles on the couch watching TV, and even plays catch.
What a fine metaphor for dealing with the predators in our lives! And we all have them. Maybe not on the level of grizzlies, but we face antagonism. In traffic. On Facebook. In stores. With families and friends. But how do we respond? Let’s explore that.
First, we choose the goal of getting along with them. If they’re fellow followers of Jesus, we’ll spend a long time in heaven with them. If they’re not, our strategy should include making faith an attractive option. “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).
I love the exclusion. We do all we can to get along. All within our power. But sometimes we just can’t live in peace. We can exclude predators from our lives. We can protect our families, our ministries, ourselves. But we need to give it our best shot. Here are three tips.
First, we intentionally choose to act in love, desiring to make a positive spiritual impact in their lives, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into…Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). We do our best to avoid angry words, vengeful attitudes, and hitting their triggers. We live in reality and avoid pretending.
Second, we strive to use gentle words, not harsh ones. Questions often work better than statements, so we can often defuse situations like that, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). Do we attack or gently try to restore? Do we make it worse or give it a shot at redemption?
Third, we focus on having a forgiving spirit. Granted, full forgiveness only comes with confession and repentance. I get that. But we should be quick to forgive when the chance comes—because that reflects God’s heart, “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him” (Luke 17:3-4).
Frankly, I don’t recommend bringing a wild grizzly into your home. But perhaps as followers of Jesus, we can be his agents in making relationships more civilized.
Kick Starting the Application
Identify some “predators” you have in your life. This may include general categories, like red light runners. What makes them difficult for you? Do you have some issues that make it all worse? Pick out just one for now—do you prefer to live in peace or get back at them? What specific steps can you take this week to use the three principles above? Will you?