There is a new trend going around in the big cities of NYC and DC – it is called the “knockout” game. It has also spread west to Detroit and St. Louis, but also to small towns like Peoria and Indianapolis. Young teens walk up or ride along to find a victim, with whom they can take a round-about-swing and knock the victim out.1 It is a game to them, but it has proven deadly to a few victims.2 What would possess someone to do something so wicked? It takes a person who has too much time on their hands, possesses a callused soul, is indifferent toward the image of God in others and/or mirrors the original murderer from the beginning,
You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. (John 8:44)
That’s the way all of life is, it seems! It is a beat down, drag out, no holds barred attempt to destroy anyone, especially those who might honor the Lord. Jesus described this wickedness well, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy… John 10:10a).
Fortunately, some are calling out this viciousness and demand an investigation.3
But most people don’t have to be hit by a young criminal to feel beaten up. They can feel beaten down by the pressure of life at work, leading in a home and raising children, facing unending doctor’s appointments because of deteriorating health, or even the lack of employment in a tough economy.
Some are good at beating people down.
There are some people who are good at beating others down. Often they are critical or judgmental in character. They are good at seeing what is wrong in others and they are not hesitant to point it out. Others do a good job of failing themselves and they put other people down, just to try and scrape themselves off the floor of life. There are still others who had a rough life and rather than accepting the past and moving on to help create a better future, they continue the downward spiral of misery on others.
Some unintentionally feel beat down.
Some don’t mean to beat people down, but the offended person feels that way, because it is just one more straw put on them in a tough world. It may be a ticket for rolling through a stop sign after a rough day at work, or the neighbor’s dog that keeps dropping on your lawn, even though you are doing your best to be a good neighbor, or wondering about the extra charges at the auto repair store. Those are minor incidents from people who may be doing their job, but the recipient gets tired of the whole mess of life. Or what about the repairman who keeps coming back to fix yet another problem on your furnace, even though you’ve already invested 600 dollars on two previous visits. These are part of life, but the timing can make it seem like the world is against you.
Some beat people down by unintentional words.
Some people do not intend to beat you down, but their words feel heavy enough. Your mind races on how to respond “to not get even.” Many people don’t intentionally mean to be rude or unkind, but their timing finds a person beat down in other circumstances and innocuous words may beat them down further. Some intentionally put people down through “cute cuts” (a cute comment, but is critical or makes the person look foolish), because they don’t know any better. They think the “cute cut” is funny, or they are resentful toward the other person and think that is an innocuous way to put the person down. It is a way to beat people down. This may be a far cry from the “knockout” game, however for many people that I talk to it is how they look at life.
So how do people respond? How do people deal with the challenges of a beat down, drag out, no holds barred kind of world, in which we live?
Many wallow in their misery like Eeyore.
There are many people who wallow in their misery like Eeyore. There are many who don’t look like Eeyore or even act like him all the time, but their negative outlook reminds others of him! The question is, “Do you build the person up or let him wallow on his own, until he comes to his senses?” Unfortunately, too many, like Eeyore, do not realize what they are like, so you need a combination of building up and exhortation (Eph. 4:29). Yet, err on the side of building them up and doing things with them to get their mind off bad situations and onto achievements they have accomplished (Jam. 1:22).
Many don’t care what others think.
No one cares what every other person thinks, but some are overly concerned about what too many think. Then there are those who get on with life and leave too many in their tracks sitting along side the road neutralized. They do not have a job that really matters how they talk or live, as long as it is legal. They will have to work at being good shepherds like the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37). Some are wired to be very objective and expect others to just stop focusing on their problems. They are right and make good soldiers, but they do need to recognize the weakness in others may be there, so they can come alongside and disciple the weaker brother to Christ,
21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you. 22 No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. 23 And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, (1 Cor. 12:21-23 NKJ)
They may plow through life and leave many bruised reeds in their wake, contrary to Jesus, “A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench, Till He sends forth justice to victory.” (Matt. 12:20 NKJ)
Some are prideful and expect people to pull up their boot straps.
When people go through rough times and they’ve learned worldly ways to cope, without the humility that God teaches, they often become prideful and expect others to “pull up their boot straps.” “Just pull your boot straps up and start marching,” they exhort. That is necessary for many people, but any good Christian warriors can be weakened in time and they don’t need the exhortation at that moment. They need a few extra minutes to gather their senses in order to advance. Paul gives a good balance to helping people, “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.” (1 Thes. 5:14 NKJ)
The unruly need to be confronted. Those who are fainthearted and weak need to be encouraged or comforted and upheld. Paul admonishes Christians to be patient with all men.
Christians are in a war (1 Tim. 1:18). No Christian is exempt. However, those who are marching should be much more like geese who “honk” to encourage the lead goose, rather than growling wolves snarling for their opportunity to eat the prey.
Live like Jesus.
The way you relate to people will never be simple if you really want to shepherd people. Every person is a little different as well their circumstances. When the bombs are exploding and people are dying, then combat exhortations are necessary. However, most people are not on “Condition Red” (high alert to present danger) so admonitions of encouragement and building up lead many more followers than judgmental retorts or comparisons. Jesus compared himself to the thief. He said, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10 NKJ) Do people believe you have come to lead them to Jesus’ abundant life?