Rules From the Playground: If I am going down, so is he…
Over the past month we have had the pleasure of being volunteers to help out with maintaining order while the elementary kids are on the playground for their lunch break. It is rather funny to see what never changes and have all these flash backs to my own days in elementary school. I am learning there are certain rules of how things work that all kids know and use for their advantage. I will review the rules as I go, and in no particular order other then when I learn them.
Rule #1 – When in trouble, take someone down with you
It has been difficult to maintain a balance between getting to know these kids on the playground and playing the role of policing them. Regardless, you have to make sure kids are playing fair. Some days I am better at it than others, but yesterday this transpired.
These kids are playing soccer in a small area set aside from the main field and the playground. One kid just blasts a ball into the crotch of the boy playing goalie. He drops and doesn’t move for like five minutes. Everyone gets ticked at him because in this area, you need to play nice. This is where the special ed kids play with other kids who know how to play nice. I go and talk to the offender and tell him, he can’t play over here because he is kicking to hard.
He says, “Other kids are kicking hard and someone said a bad word. He said d#$%!”
I respond, “Who said it?”
He points in the direction of the swarm of kids trying to the kick the ball, “He did.” (I think to myself, “which one?”)
Then I stupidly respond, “Well, I didn’t hear it.” (Essentially, because there is little I can do about it, not to mention the two witnesses rule. I have just done an injustice to this kid as the authority. He committed one sin, but so did some other kids. And I essentially abdicate my responsibility to maintain justice… ugh. But that is another story.)
However, it got me thinking. The kid didn’t really deny what he did was wrong, but he sure wasn’t going down alone. He wanted everyone else who sinned to go down with him. It’s only fair right? If I get busted, so should all the other guilty people too. There is no doubt that a part of this was to blame others, just like Adam and Eve did in Gen 3. “She made me do it.” “The devil made me do it.” Those kind of things that are ingrained in humanity. This is what is often behind unbelievers being so ticked at Christians for pointing out their sins.
“If I am going down, so are you.”
What about your sins? What about all the stuff you did to me? How dare you point out my sins and yet ignore your own? This kind of sounds like Matt. 7:1-6. “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?” We do people an injustice when we point out the sins of others and yet ignore our own. This kid gets kicked out of a group for his particular sin, and yet none of them kick out others for similar ones or even other sins just as bad. He was right. No one was innocent (Rom 3, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”). The community ruled unjustly. So why should he have to suffer?
How should we respond, both as sinners, who want others to pay for their crimes when we get caught, and as saints, attempting to point to people to the narrow road of Jesus? Matthew 7:1-6 – Disciples of Jesus must not be judgmental and legalistic, picking out their favorite sins. People will measure you by the standards you set and because you are a sinner too, they will find fault. We must respond in integrity, and ultimately encourage the whole group to play by the rules for the mutual enjoyment of all. We need to respond looking to the grace and love of Jesus. We should encourage people, especially Christians to be holy. We cannot overlook sin, but we should handle it with care.
Interestingly, Jesus makes a rather perplexing statement in Matthew 7:6 right after the comment about judging improperly. “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.” Perhaps, this is an illustration of Rule #1. If you are not careful in how you point out the sins of others, they aim to take you down with them. In addition to speaking with integrity, I think he is saying, discern the battles to pick. They could not allow the ball to be kicked so hard it my ruin some boy’s chance at having his own kids some day. But he wasn’t doing himself any favors by pointing out the sins of other people.
The end of the story is after a few minutes, the kid asked to play goalie. I let him and for the most part things went well after that. No one really protested and he played nice. Yes, that person sinned and shouldn’t have done that. He was right that others were not without guilt. Regardless, we must extend grace and turn from our own sin, look to Jesus as our measure and ultimately the one who restores us to fellowship with God and with others. We must be careful in what sins we choose to point out and how. Otherwise we may risk one person aiming to take down a ton of people with him.