#P5: To escalate or de-escalate…

Pastor's Five, P5 logo“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1, NASB.

Like most of you, I have been inundated with video and commentary about the recent event in McKinney, TX where a police officer (now former police officer) was recorded shouting profanity and yelling at a group of teens that were reported to him to be trespassing and engaged in a fight. There are tons of commentaries on the incident and no shortage of opinions on the justification of the officer’s actions. I have an opinion based on what I have seen, but also realize that I have not seen everything…only what those who are seeking to shape their narrative have offered. So, I will not lead the parade to the lynching of either the officer or the teens. What I will do is offer a reflection on how Scripture informs the conduct of our lives.

When a person is opposed (verbally or otherwise) there is an immediate and sometimes overwhelming urge to lash out and “let them have it!” Acting on that urge provides a release and momentary euphoria. “I showed them!” But…if we were truthful, our unbridled response likely only exasperated the situation and evoked a more strident response from our opposition.

The officer was in a chaotic situation. large crowd dynamics (particularly when they involve children and teens without the wisdom that comes with maturity–chronological, emotional, and experiential) are dicey. Emotions are high and feelings are on everyone’s sleeves. While a need may actually exist to take firm control of a situation, misplaced outbursts of emotion may serve to escalate the situation. For instance, the officer’s loud, profane, and harsh words along with his take charge demeanor pushed the emotional quotient much higher than it needed to be and actually made the situation more volatile. (Now forgive me, since I have the luxury of hindsight that was not afforded to the officer or the teens involved). The same is true for the “mouthy” kids who are poster-child examples of the need to bring back “washing your mouth out with soap.” (The interviews with the kids after the incident present a far more respectful and subdued tone).

The truth is…Scripture speaks truth. If you can master your emotions with the help of God’s grace and respond rather than react to a situation…you stand a better chance of resolving conflict.

Not that I would assign a “faith position” to anyone at the pool that day without a little more inside information, but this I know…everyone there was a broken/sinful creature. Everyone there had a propensity toward self-exaltation and self-preservation. Everyone there needed more Jesus! EVERYONE!

James, the half-brother of Jesus, reminds us well that the tongue is evil and untamable (in its perfect expression). It must be mastered. If it is not, man’s religion is of no real and transcendent value.

So, here it is: Learn to swallow hard when you want to lash out. Breathe. Count to 10 or 10,000. Respond rather than react. This is wisdom and speaks well of our Savior. Any other response misrepresents the heart of our Lord and King.


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