Don't ask my sons a question if you're not interested in honest answers. Last week at preschool, 5-year-old Nicholas got into a couple of scrapes with the only appropriate opponent - his best friend, Kyler.
At this point you need to know the difference in my two sons, which is best summed up thusly: Nicholas is our publican, Andrew our Pharisee. Nicholas would prefer to confess his sin, accept the punishment, then get on with the business of loving us in a restored relationship. Andrew, on the other hand, has a preternatural passion for knowledge, a passion I believe God will powerfully use to draw people to Him. But the desire to be right creates such angst during those very rare occasions in which he's wrong that his first reaction is to concoct some complex, trigonometric equation that will either justify his iniquity or wear you down trying to figure out what in the world he's talking about.
Back to last week's pugnacious preschoolers. Nicholas walked in after being dropped off by none other than Kyler and Kyler's dad - imagine Tyson giving Holyfield a ride home..."Sorry again about your ear. It really doesn't look that bad..." - and immediately told my wife in great detail the truth and nothing but. The missus, not wanting to discourage his openness and confession, reserved judgment for later. That's when the fun began.
Later that afternoon in the car, my wife asked the boys what they think they should do if someone hit them. Andrew said, "You should go find a grown-up and tell them what happened." Nicholas was having none of that: "I think you should hit 'em back." He didn't say that in a mean-spirited or emotional way. It was more like, "What other option is there?"
Andrew (with his wide phylacteries and long tassels dangling) was quick to counter, "Nicholas! That's not what God wants us to do!" To which Nicholas replied quietly but matter-of-factly, "I still think you should hit 'em."
God bless those boys. They have way too much of me in them to be predisposed to perfection. But how can you not love these guys? I have such appreciation for Andrew's desire to act justly. I adore the way Nicholas loves mercy. And what a challenge for us to teach and model what it means to walk humbly with our God.
I can already see how the kingdom will come into their lives in powerful but very different ways. For Andrew, it will mean eventually embracing grace instead of his own righteousness. I suspect he will live a more holy life than most but ultimately have to accept that it's little more than filthy rags in light of a perfect God. Meanwhile, Nicholas will need victory over the visceral. I can see him waging a lifetime war against his human nature when it comes to personal temptation and the sin of others.
Different behavior, same Savior. Andrew may struggle to be part of a kingdom that eagerly welcomes people who act like, well, his brother. Nicholas could very well struggle with feeling so fallible and witnessing how holy living seems to come more easily to Andrew. But what's wonderful to watch is how beautifully the boys model unity. These opposite ends of the personality spectrum are utterly inseparable. Best friends by a mile, warts and all. And they don't have a single test of fellowship between them. All they have is the same blood coarsing through their veins, and that's plenty good enough for them.
So if you slap my boys in the face, beware: you're just as likely to get a fat lip as a turned cheek. But whatever happens, you can bet they'll ride home together.
Psalm 133:1 - "How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!"