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We may need to grow ‘down’

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“Will you retaliate or turn the other cheek?”

Graham Maxwell (1921-2010) was the emeritus professor of New Testament studies Loma Linda University; he was so highly regarded for his deep understanding and insight into the Scriptures that he was even called on board to contribute to a Bible commentary.

I have listened to a great number of his lectures and read several of his papers. One thing that Maxwell was passionate about was going through the Bible book by book with different groups and asking: “What picture of God do you get reading that book?”

It is estimated that in the years that he did these studies, sometimes with several groups a year, he studied through the Bible around 150 times. STUDIED, not merely read, this means that he had a very good idea of what was going on.

But one day Maxwell met his match in Casey, an eight-year-old with an analytical mind. The esteemed professor had been going through the Bible with a group of youngsters, when they came to the part where Jesus told the people to “turn the other cheek” and Maxwell looked at the group.

“Remember everyone, a few months ago we read that God said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’? Tell me, what would you do if someone knocked your tooth out?

“Will you retaliate or turn the other cheek?”

The young people discussed it for a while, but it was young Casey, the smallest in the group, who volunteered an answer.

In several of his lectures Maxwell speaks about Casey’s insightful answer, and every time he tells the story, he chuckles in amusement.

“What I would do,” the young lad ventured, “If someone knocked out my tooth, I would first knock out their tooth, then I would turn the other cheek!”

I love that reasoning!

Children are amazing. They have an incredible way of understanding things. The thing I love about young children is that they are so teachable. Once they are convinced about something they will follow instructions. When they learn something new they will co-operate and respond in the proper way.

For example, a friend of mine picked up his young granddaughter from school one day. He had an energy drink with him and as he drove home he casually took a sip from the bottle.

“You mustn’t do that!” His granddaughter scolded him. “My teacher says you must not drink and drive!” He tried to explain to the infuriated young girl that it was OK to drink water or sodas, but not alcohol. However, she was having none of it. At the end of the day, it was a few years before anyone could drink anything while driving when she was in the car.

Maybe we should get our children to teach us about the steps to be taken to flatten the curve of coronavirus infections. Far too many adults and alarmingly so much of the youth are very dismissive of the threat hanging over us. Who knows, they may be right; this could turn out to be much ado about nothing.

Everyone needs to come on board. Everyone must exercise proper hygiene and social distancing, even if it’s just to calm the fears of others, because people are scared right now.

During this time that there is the possibility that handwashing, social distancing, staying at home and wiping down surfaces is our best line of defence, perhaps this is the time to take the suggestions of our government officials and the medical fraternity as if we were children, following their guidelines dogmatically and co-operating.

I am certain that we would all rather want to be laughing at the steps that we took in the midst of the panic than sitting with our heads in our hands regretting the fact that we were too casual during this crisis.

Pablo Picasso said: “It takes a long time to become young”, but we may not have a long time. We may need to grow ‘down’ and be teachable, and we need to do it fast.