Sleep on This: Grumbling, part II
Good evening, friend!
We are mulling a seven-word phrase in Philippians 2: 14:
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing…”
Remember, Paul wrote these words from a prison cell where he awaited his own execution. If anyone had earned the right to complain about his situation, it was Paul. And yet, his admonition to his readers…and to himself… was to police the things that come out of your mouth.
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing…” Paul was clearly thinking back to the Exodus story, especially when he goes on in verse 15 to describe the present generation as “crooked and twisted,” a direct quote from Deuteronomy 32:5. He is harkening back to the murmuring of the Israelite people. Even though God dealt graciously and miraculously with them, they still found things to kvetch about. And ultimately, their complaints were directed, not to Moses, but to God.
But I want to look at the second word: “disputing.” If “murmuring” is directed primarily God-ward, “disputing” is aimed at our fellow human beings. It is a word used to describe a vigorous argument.
I haven’t been eavesdropping, but it wouldn’t be too clever of me to suggest that there has been a rise in the number of “disputations” in your home these past few weeks. Again, you might have every reason to be short or critical or nitpicky; you might be completely in the right. So…if you won the argument, did you win the day? Did the one on the other side of your verbal jousting suddenly relent and say, “Ah, I see now how right you have been all along! Thank you for setting me straight?” Did you climb into bed afterward with a deeper sense of affection?
Yeah, I don’t think so. Cyndi and I have had a rule in our marriage: “First to apologize; first to forgive.” When we get ticked at each other, rather than trying to hold out until the other person sees the error of their ways and comes crawling back…we have made it a habit to try to be the first one to seek reconciliation. Really…truly…it is a lot more fun and productive than winning arguments.
One last related thought on this. I am disturbed by what I sense to be a growing “informant” culture; people who are reporting their neighbor for perceived breaches of behavior. I spoke to someone yesterday who wanted to know if they should report a person to the authorities who seemed to have COVID-19 symptoms. How would you have responded?
When I took my family to Budapest, Hungary many years ago, it was the best lesson my children could have had on the scourge of communism, an evil they never knew. One thing that really bothered them was this: you had to be VERY careful not to offend your neighbor lest they report you to the officials for some trumped-up charge…and you would be picked up in the middle of the night by the dreaded black sedans.
I hope…I pray…that we resist the temptation in this season to become our neighbor’s “watchers” and instead, continue to be their champions.
Lord, as I lay me down to sleep, would you soothe and quiet my disputatious spirit? May your grace flood me and give me the will and desire to surrender on matters that don’t matter; to be first to forgive, first to apologize and the last to inform! Amen!