When We Settle Differences
When We Settle Differences
Scriptures: Luke 7:31; Matthew 7:12
Jim slowly plodded along the dusty road. His steps dragged. He really didn’t want to go home. He didn’t want to face the questioning eyes of Grandfather, Grandmother, and Jane. How could he explain his swollen, black eye? How could he explain his torn clothes? A deep sense of shame enveloped him as he thought about it, but this was followed by a quick flash of anger as he remembered Sam Payne’s words: “Your grandfather is an old cheater. He cheated my dad.”
“I won’t have anybody calling Grandfather a cheat,” Jim muttered as he kicked the stones along the side of the road. “I had to do something about it.”
He came to the pasture where he could crawl through the fence and walk up through the meadow; but this evening he stayed in the road. It would take him longer to get home that way and give him more time to plan what he would say. As he looked across the barnyard he saw that the cows were coming out and he knew that Grandfather had finished milking. He quickened his pace. Maybe he could get through the kitchen and up to his room before Grandfather came in. If Grandmother were busy preparing supper maybe she wouldn’t notice what he looked like. He would have a chance to clean up or go to bed with a headache or something.
He tried to get in ahead of Grandfather, as he had planned; but it didn’t work. Grandfather was in the kitchen ready for supper when Jim came in. Jane was sitting on a high stool spreading icing on a cake which Grandmother had baked, and Grandmother was putting the food on the table for supper.
As the odor of the delicious supper met Jim at the door he quickly changed his mind about going straight to his room. He was hungry – very, very hungry – and he couldn’t pretend to be sick and go without his supper. He had a feeling that that wouldn’t work anyway; so he faced the little group in the kitchen. Jane saw him first.
“Jim!” she exclaimed. “What in the world happened to you? Your eye is black and your face is swollen. And look at your clothes! Whom did you fight?”
By this time Grandfather and Grandmother were surveying him with questioning eyes. Jim bit his lip and started for the bathroom. “I have to clean up for supper,” he mumbled. After bathing and putting on fresh clothing, he felt much better. By this time, he had decided to tell his grandparents the whole truth. They had already started supper when he came out into the kitchen. As soon as he took his place at the table, Grandmother started passing him food but she did not ask questions. It was Jane who was bursting with questions.
“Did you start the fight?” she demanded. “You and David didn’t have a fight, did you? I think it would be terrible for you and David to have a fight. If you did you will have to make up before you go home. Mother and Dad are coming after us next week.”
There was a hurt look on Grandmother’s face as she looked at Jim. “I’ll get an ice bag right after supper, Jimmy,” she said. “That may take the blackness away. Since this is Friday, I’ll have to doctor you in a hurry so that you will be ready to go to church on Sunday. It is love-feast day, you know, and I had hoped that you and Jane might go to a love feast.”
“Jim surely doesn’t look as if he went to a love feast today,” Jane observed. “Why don’t you make him tell us about it, Grandfather?” she demanded.
“Well,” he replied, “I think that if Jim wants to tell us about his problems he will, but I don’t think that is has to. We all settle our differences in our own ways, and I suppose he settled his differences today in his way.”
Jim couldn’t hold it any longer. “It wasn’t my difference,” he said. “It was Sam Payne’s fault. He said that you cheated his dad, and I knew it wasn’t true. And I couldn’t let him say things like that.”
“Oh,” breathed Jane and Grandmother together.
There was a light in Grandfather’s eyes as he looked at Jim. “I appreciate your loyalty, Jimmy boy,” he said. “I’m glad I can depend on you to help me out when I’m not there to defend myself, but are you sure that fighting was the best way to do it?”
“There wasn’t any other way,” Jim mumbled. “Sam just kept on talking about it, and I had to teach him a thing or two.”
“Are you sure you taught him?” Grandmother asked gently. “If he looks like you, maybe he feels worse instead of better.”
“Well, he ought to,” Jim said. “Grandfather helped his dad out when he couldn’t cut his wheat. He’s always doing something for the Paynes. Sam’s father drinks and everything else and then talks about Grandfather. I’m just not letting him get by with that.”
“Do you know what Mr. Payne is talking about, Grandfather?” Jane asked, looking at him.
“Yes,” he answered. “I think I know what started all this trouble. Mr. Payne decided that the line fence between our places was at the wrong place. He thought that the man who owned the place before I bought it had made a mistake and that I had some of the ground which should be his. To save trouble I asked the surveyor to come out. He resurveyed the two places and discovered that the line fence is where it should be. I thought that the matter was completely settled, but it seems it isn’t.”
“Yeah, that’s it,” said Jim. “He said that you wouldn’t have so much wheat to sell and so much ground to farm, if you gave his dad what belonged to him. I wish you would go over there and tell old man Payne a thing or two.”
No, Jim,” said Grandfather firmly. “I don’t do things that way. I probably haven’t taken enough time to talk this over with Sam’s father. I am sure that we can settle it in a way that will stop the talk and we’ll both feel right about it. You see, we have a practice in the Church of the Brethren whereby if two people in the church differ, we talk it over. If we can’t come to an agreement, then we ask the minister and several other people to go with us and we talk it over and try again to understand one another.
That is the way that Jesus taught and we really believe it is a better way than to fight it out.”
Again, Jim felt a wave of shame come over him. “It probably would be a better way,” he said slowly. “but I doubt that Mr. Payne will listen. He’s been talking a lot. He’s been telling everyone about this.”
“Yes,” answered Grandfather, “there is a law; but this is like suing Mr. Layman when his cows got into my corn. The Brethren don’t do things that way. We think that we ought to settle everything in a peaceful way, forgiving and forgetting when people do us wrong.”
“You’ll have to forgive Sam Payne for beating you up today,” Jane observed. “I’m sure that you ought to, because you started the fight, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” Jim answered. “I don’t think I can ever let anyone call Grandfather a cheat, but probably fighting wasn’t the best way to do something about it.”
“You are right, Jim,” said Grandfather. “But most boys have to try it out to see how it works; and there are some people who never learn that it isn’t the way to settle their differences.”
“Will you go see Mr. Payne tomorrow?” Jim asked. “I’m anxious to know whether your way will work or not.”
“Yes, Jim, I’ll go and I’m pretty sure that it will work. I have lived here beside Mike Payne for a long time and we have always been able to work out our differences in this way and live peacefully as neighbors.”
Learning the Brethren Way with Jim and Jane.
By Dessie R. Miller. Illustrated by Harry Durkee.
Elgin, lllinois: Brethren Press (Church of the Brethren). 1951.
Chapter 13, pages 65—69.