“You have heard that it was said,
‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’
But I tell you, do not resist an evil person.
If anyone slaps you on the right cheek,
turn to them the other cheek also."
- Jesus, according to Matthew
Samuel burst into the FLAVA room, obviously upset. I asked him how his day was, and though he didn’t say much I could tell he was trying to calm himself down. After a long pause he said, “I better not see Brooke again or I will punch her.”
I asked him again about his day and why he was so upset. I also reminded Samuel that there has to be a better solution than punching someone.
He took a couple of breaths and then rambled on about the events that had unfolded. Brooke and her brother Trey had been bickering back and forth with Samuel as soon as they had stepped off the bus. By time they had reached the FLAVA building the argument was at full strength.
Samuel repeated his early threat a couple more times, and I encouraged him to respond differently a couple more times. Finally he calmed down and seemed to forget about the whole situation.
This is one of many stories I could tell about FLAVA students. It’s a daily struggle not just for students like Samuel, but for me as well. I understand the constant tension of doing what seems justified in anger, versus following the ways of Lord.
She hit me so I will hit her. He threw water on me so I will throw it on him. Eye for an eye. Tooth for a tooth. But Jesus’ teachings encourage us to respond differently. And though this is a harder, higher calling, it is in fact the calling followers of Christ have.
Samuel and many other students that come to NETwork are just learning about who Jesus is, and though some of them know Christ, many do not. We can talk about a lot of reasons that Samuel shouldn’t hit Brooke when he sees her next, but ultimately real change in behavior comes after a life-changing experience with Christ.
When I think about students like Samuel and the words of Jesus, my prayers change. It’s not just prayers for peace and non-violence, but also prayers for every student at NETwork to acknowledge their higher calling. Until then, I can tell Samuel again and again not to hit Brooke or anyone else, but it seems like it is just behavior modification. Though I am constantly praying for stu- dents to be more peaceful, I am ultimately praying for them to know Jesus, to know the truth about our Lord and Savior, and to follow Him.
I don’t have an amazing ending to the story with Samuel, Brooke, and Trey. I don’t know what happened the next time Samuel saw Brooke, but I know that we have a Lord who meets kids where they are and it’s a joy to be a part of the work he is doing!