When my son was in junior high, I was asked to help coach basketball to a group of at-risk teens. The kids wanted to form a team, but needed a coach they trusted. They trusted the father who approached me, but he needed help with the basketball instruction.
Outside of our team, every aspect of our life together was a source of conflict. We were white adults coaching black children. We had to earn the trust of the player’s families. Black coaches didn’t like us because we were white. White coaches didn’t like our players because they were black. Referees did little to hide their racial biases.
I’ve never been around a more manipulated group of children in my whole life. Coaches from white schools would give them jewelry and cash to seduce them to their school to play football. Gang members would try to get them to join their “team.” The only sanctuary from it was our practices. But that time was fleeting and seasonal.
In the end we taught very little basketball. Our time was spent teaching the boys how to react rationally and thoughtfully to conflict. To show them how their own emotions could be their greatest enemy.
I’ve been living with the conflicts of the Apostle Paul this summer. Today, I read Paul’s words, “We are…persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” It made me think of this team and their struggles. The lessons they learned we could all use. Anger is the easiest and most immediate response to conflict, but it’s also the least effective. A calm and rational response may seem passive, but it provides the most enduring result, life. Think of the conflicts in your world, how might you respond to them in a way that promotes life?