The Field

“The Field,” © Lynn Abbott Studios. Used with Permission.

© 2018 Lynn Abbott

Churchill certainly got it right when he said, “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

Of course, most of us would love to get through life without offending anyone.  Conflict, after all, isn’t generally fun.

Yet, in this world, few people escape unscathed by conflict.

Yup. If you step out the door and onto the field, you enter life’s conflict. Attempt to accomplish anything, your chances of developing enemies increases exponentially…

I learned this the hard way some years ago.  At the time, I had taken some time off from a high pressure career; however, in need of income, I picked up work as a Literature Instructor.

Because of my educational background, I was assigned several popular sections of English Literature. Naturally, I was delighted.

But my new department chair? Not so much.

She had long desired those particular classes.

It didn’t matter that I performed my duties well;  because of her ambition, she sought to poison my reputation.

Perhaps, you’ve been in a similar situation. It’s a common scenario, especially in the workplace.

If you step out the door and onto the field, you enter life’s conflict.

Out in the field, you and I meet all kinds of people.

 

At times, the betrayal seems more than you can bear. Reeling from such blows, you and I naturally feel anger, disappointment and yes, heartbreak.

Without  a doubt, human nature longs to self-protect. Under the right conditions, retaliation actually appeals.

W certainly don’t have to look far to find someone who will applaud revenge.

Even so, Christ taught us to forgive our enemies; to offer grace; to walk the second mile. But I haven’t always understood how that all plays out in the field.

Does walking with mercy and grace mean I play the doormat?

 

Until recently, I wasn’t sure that God directly addressed the issue.

But the Holy Spirit has a way of teaching me something new every time I read through God’s word.

In fact, as I plodded my way through Exodus’ lengthy list of civil and moral codes, God highlighted Moses’ experiences with interpersonal conflict.

Of course, Mo’ had confronted Pharaoh over and over again.

After such a dramatic demonstration of God’s power, he probably never expected the betrayal of Exodus chapter 32.

Out in the field, you and I meet all kinds of people.

Aaron, Mo’s brother, had stood by Moses through the ten plagues and through the desert.  He witnessed the miracle at the Red Sea.

Brother Aaron also watched Yahweh provide manna and water in the wilderness.

And when Moses stood before God on Mount Sinai, God outlined Aaron’s honored role as high priest in service to God.

I’m sure Moses could think of no better right-hand than his brother. After all, they’d been through a lot together.

For this reason, Aaron lead in Moses’ stead when brother Mo’ met with God on Sinai.

Evidently, God had a lot to say because Moses spent forty days and forty nights on the Mount (Exodus 24:18).

Forty days with God…That definitely qualifies as a mountain-top experience to beat all mountain-top experiences!

As their time together came to a close, Yahweh gave Moses the law inscribed by the “hand of God.”

I imagine Moses’ step quickened as he descended Mt. Sinai; he likely anticipated telling his brother all that God had spoken.

But as Moses descended, he probably became increasingly uneasy. Joshua, who had stood guard part way up the mountain, finally put Mo’s concerns into words.

Josh said, “There is a sound of war in the camp,” (Exodus 32:18).

Moses, however, questioned Josh’s theory. “It is not the sound of the cry of triumph, Nor is it the sound of the cry of defeat; But the sound of singing I hear,” he said (Exodus 32:18).

Forty days with God definitely qualifies as a mountain-top experience to beat all mountain-top experiences!

When Moses arrived at camp, he discovered God’s chosen high priest leading the people in idolatry.

From the mountaintop to the desert floor; from the hilltops to the plains… Moses returned to face opposition and hardship in his day-to-day workplace.

Betrayed by his brother. Disappointed by God’s people.

It isn’t surprising that Moses became angry.

And Mo’ smashed the tablets…

Actually, when I think about it, it was a fitting response. The people had already broken the law of God even before Moses had a chance to present it to them. Their pagan revelry broke a good many of the ten commandments even beyond the most obvious.

Even so, Moses initially gave Aaron the benefit of the doubt:  “What did this people do to you, that you have brought such great sin upon them?” (Exodus 32:21).

Aaron’s response kills me. In fact, while reading Aaron’s response during my morning study, I nearly spewed my cup of tea.

Aaron self-justified:  “Do not let the anger of my lord burn; you know the people yourself, that they are prone to evil…”

It’s not my fault…the people forced me to make the golden calf. They are evil.

Without hesitation, Aaron chose to ride the benefit of the doubt as far as it would take him.

Perhaps, one of your colleagues has betrayed you. Maybe, after being caught in gossip or slander, your co-worker attempts to cover it up. And you find yourself listening to absurd rationales.

If so, you can certainly understand the difficult position in which Moses found himself.

After explaining that the people demanded the idol, Aaron reported, “And I said to them, ‘Whoever has any gold, let them tear it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.'”

I didn’t do it, claimed Aaron. The calf just popped out of the fire.

I can well imagine Moses rolling his eyes.

Not only had Aaron betrayed Moses’ faith, but he also failed to offer a credible explanation.

No Yahweh follower would have blamed Mo for meting out firm justice. Aaron’s excuses were flimsy at best.

From the mountaintop to the desert floor; from the hilltops to the plains… Moses returned to face opposition and hardship in his day-to-day workplace.

Even so, the once fiery Moses, the man who killed an Egyptian who threatened an Israeli, chose to offer grace.

But as a leader, Moses also had to reestablish trust.

Thus, Moses offered Aaron, the Levites, and the rest of God’s people an opportunity to repent.

Standing in the gate of the camp, Moses said, “Whoever is for the LORD, come to me!” (Exodus 32:26).

In other words, Moses asked for a demonstration of loyalty to God.  Both grace and justice called.

On one hand, the camp could not stand divided. Split loyalties would destroy God’s people. Civil war and unrest would break out.

Thus, those who turned away from Yahweh must be sorted out. The nation’s survival depended upon it.

Yet, in a stunning demonstration of both wisdom and grace, Moses called Aaron and the people to recommit their lives to God.

It would have been easy to simply repudiate Aaron.  Instead, Moses gave grace.

My “aha!” moment?  By calling for public expression of loyalty to God, Moses most certainly did not play the doormat.

Yeah, Moses shows me what grace looks like in the field.

But here it is:  Moses most certainly did not play the doormat.

Faith reminds me that God’s purpose will not be thwarted, (Job 42:2).

For this reason, His command that we “love our enemies” is more than possible.  Yet, He has also warned, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; therefore, be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves,” (Matthew 10:16).

Our Savior understands the importance of trust. Loyalties must be established for unity’s sake. Thus, Moses said, “Whoever is for the LORD, come to me!” (Exodus 32:26).

Grace, yes!

But at the same time, no doormats here… just Christ followers who trust the Sovereign-Shepherd to complete the good work He has begun.

“Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person,” ~1 Thessalonians 4:6