Limits and Responsibilities
Opening Question: Have many of you have been responsible for a puppy? What happened?
First Reading: Ezekiel 33:7-9
For Laura's birthday, she got a cute fluffy puppy. A pure bred German shepherd. She named the puppy Teddy Bear. The puppy had bright eyes and loved to lick everyone. And everyone loved Teddy Bear.
With the gift of the puppy came responsibility. "Laura," her mother said, "you have to feed, walk, and clean up after Teddy Bear. Your father and I will help, but Teddy is your responsibility."
First, Laura had to house train the puppy. The place to go to the bathroom was outside. While Teddy Bear was learning to control himself, Laura put newspaper down and cleaned up the mess. Sometimes Teddy made a mistake and he got in trouble. But, sometimes Laura didn't do her job, and she got in trouble.
"It's hard to take care of a puppy," Laura sighed.
"You wanted a puppy," her mother reminded her. "We told you it would be hard work. Besides, don't you get love from Teddy Bear?"
"Yes," Laura responded. She knew her mother was right.
After a few months, Teddy grew. He became house broken. But he had all the energy of a puppy. Laura loved Teddy, and Teddy loved Laura. Yes, Teddy was a responsibility, but he was fun, too. Laura's mother and father were proud Laura learned to take care of an animal, with its responsibilities and rewards.
Like Laura, Ezekiel had a responsibility. God told him to remind the people. He was their God, and they were his people. Ezekiel warned the people, just as he God told him. But the people didn't listen, and their nation was conquered. Let us listen to God and do what he wants us to do.
Bridging Question: Have you ever seen someone put down or embarrassed? How did they feel? How did they handle it?
Gospel: Matthew 18: 15-20
Jesus said to his followers:
If another believer hurts you, go and talk to him about it in private. If he really hears you and does something about it, he will become a true friend.
If he refuses to hear you, go and talk to him again with two or three other believers. 'Any word spoken against someone can be confirmed with two or three witnesses.'
If he ignores them, explain the hurt to the community. If he also ignores the community, treat him like an unbeliever or a traitor.
Listen to what I say to you! God approves of everything you permit or prohibit in the community.
Listen again to what I say to you! Any time two among you agree about anything they pray for, my Father in heaven will do it for them.
For, when two or three believers gather together to pray in my name, I am present with them.
Brandon, Thomas, and Robert sat in their usual corner eating lunch. The three boys just started to meet there earlier in the year. No one claimed the spot and no one bothered them about it. Soon, they just assumed it was their spot to eat lunch.
Then Taylor showed up. "Hey, you guys are in my spot!" Taylor bellowed. Taylor had a reputation as a bully with a lightning fast temper. Anything would set him off. And if he thought he could get away with something, he would try it. Today, Taylor wanted the boys eating area.
Brandon was shy, but nice. He didn't want a fight, so he stood up and began to walk off. Brandon's way of handling the situation was to quietly walk away.
Thomas grabbed Brandon. "Sit down!" Thomas whispered into Brandon's ear. Brandon did as Thomas asked.
"Why didn't you let your wimpy friend go?" Taylor taunted the boys.
The boys sat silently eating. Then, Thomas spoke up, "This is not your spot. We've been here all year."
"It's mine today!" Taylor shot back.
Thomas' face turned red. He, too, had a temper and was ready to start a fight with the bully. As, Thomas turned to get up, Robert grabbed his arm. "He touches us and he's in big trouble," Robert whispered loud enough for Taylor to hear. "Just keep eating."
All three boys could see Taylor turning red this time. Brandon began to look for a place to hide. Thomas was ready for a fight. But Robert just smiled and took another bite out of his sandwich.
"You're mine!" Taylor sneered at Robert. Robert just smiled as Taylor stomped off.
"Aren't you afraid of him?" Brandon asked Robert.
"Nope," Robert said with his mouth full of sandwich.
"Don't you want to fight him?" Thomas said to egg Robert on.
"Nope," Robert said just before he swallowed his bite. Robert quietly took a drink of his soda. Then Robert smiled at his friends. "Guys, I saw Mr. Beamer stop as Taylor walked up to us. He knows we eat here everyday. He saw the whole thing. I knew Taylor wouldn't touch us. If he did, he would be kicked out of school. We've safe." Robert took another drink. "Besides," Robert continued, "Taylor isn't as strong as he thinks he is. I've seen him pick a fight only to lose. He can't take all three of us. And don't worry about him after school. He has to take the early bus home."
Three boys. Three different ways to take care of an insult: escape, fight, or do nothing. The best way is to know what you can do and to know the right thing to do. Robert knew what he and his friends could do, and he did the right thing. He didn't move, but he didn't insult the bully either.
Jesus had a plan to take care of an insult. Talk it over in private. Take friends if you need to. Only make it public when there is no other choice. Like Robert, Jesus was concerned about the reputation of the victim and the sinner.
Jesus wants us to do the right thing. We shouldn't back down to bullies unless standing our ground does more harm than good. But, he does not want us to return the insult and publically embarrass the person trying to embarrass us. We should talk about it in private. We should respect ourselves and others, no matter what they do to us.
Closing Question: Put yourself in the circle with the three boys. Was there another way to handle Taylor's challenge? Would it respect the boys and the bully? Explain.