I tend to be idealistic. That's why I thought I could play an entire game of Sorry with three 4-year-olds at Allison Little Lambs Child Care yesterday. We set the board up, chose our colors, and put them in the "Start" circles.
I shuffled the cards and put them on the board. I should have gotten my first clue that this wasn't going to go well when one of the boys tried to have me put them in the spot clearly marked "Discard pile." I finally convinced him that the other spot was where they went.
The youngest child got to go first. He cheerfully grabbed his piece and said "One, two, three, four, five" as he skipped multiple spaces and tried to stop about twelve squares in the wrong direction. I patiently helped him. "No, we go this way. Look! One, two, three, four, five."
I continued helping each child count spaces and land on the right place. Then one of them drew the "Sorry" card. I explained how they could put their piece where someone else was and send them back to their Start circle. Immediate tears. "No, no, it's okay! That's part of the game. It's fun! See, you put them back and then you say "Sorry!" See, that's why the game is called Sorry." I got them calmed down and we kept playing. I think each of them got the chance to bump someone back to start and I tried to make it fun to do it and then say "Sorry" in an exaggeratedly nice way. Didn't matter. They didn't like it. They couldn't see the fun.
One boy had to leave. For some reason, the board was cleared and we started over. We chose pieces based on shirt colors this time and got the game going. I helped and we moved and one of them even got one of his pieces into the "Home" circle.
Then, the inevitable happened. I drew a "Sorry" card. I gasped in mock delight and showed the card to my little friends. They both burst into tears before I could decide who I would bump back to Start. It was hilarious from my fifty-year-old perspective, but it must have been devastating to those 4-year-olds. "No, no, guys, it's okay!" They kept crying. "You know what? I think we better play something else." And we put away the Sorry game and moved on to something a little less competitive.
It got me thinking about the last few chapters of Romans. I just studied them on Monday night with some friends. One of the things we discussed was being sensitive to those whose faith is weaker than ours.
Ultimately, if the Bible doesn't say that something is sinful, there is quite a bit of freedom for Christians to behave in different ways. I love this quote:
In essentials, unity.
In non-essentials, liberty.
In all things, charity.
We have to agree on essentials like the importance of the Bible as God's word, belief in Jesus' death and resurrection as the only way to heaven, and the belief that there is only one true God. In other areas there is room for Christians to think differently about what they eat and drink, what they do with their time, and more.
Most of all, we need to show love to those who differ from us in the non-essentials. Our faith may be strong enough to let us eat almost anything, but if we have a friend who doesn't eat meat we would be cruel to suggest going to a steakhouse with them for supper. Someone might feel okay about having a beer or a glass of wine once in a while, but if they break out the booze when their friend who doesn't drink comes over, that isn't very loving.
I could have laughed long and loud at my 4-year-old charges and forced them to keep playing our Sorry game, but I didn't. I'm old enough to handle being bumped back to the beginning during a game, but they're not mature enough to deal with that yet. Maybe we'll try again when they're five.
"We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves." (Romans 15:1 NIV)
How strong is your faith? How can focusing on God help you to be discerning and show love when you are around someone who is a young Christian?