And Paul replied, "I didn't know, brothers, that he was the high priest."
An elderly man, living just south of town, had an apple tree in his front yard which stood temptingly close to the road. The apple tree provided the man with far more fruit than he could use, so he generously allowed others to pick what they wanted.
One evening, a carload of youth pulled up in front of his house and raced over to the apple tree looking down in the grass. The old man instantly realized they were looking to see if any apples had fallen into the highway ditch -- since any fruit falling on the right-of-way of the road was fair game.
The old man wanted the kids to know that they were more than welcome to come into his yard and pick all the apples they wanted, so he hollered from his porch, "Looking for some apples?"
One of the kids shouted back, "No, we're looking for ping-pong balls!"
The old man looked at them with a hurt expression. Why did they have to respond to his generosity with such a sarcastic comment?
That same evening, I was busy orchestrating the annual scavenger hunt for our church's youth group. I would hide objects all over town and hand each team a sheet of clues on how to find them. The kids would pile into cars and each team would try to find the most objects. Everyone had to be back in the church parking lot in an hour or they were disqualified. The group that found the most objects was declared the winner.
Just south of town was a large billboard and I hid one of the objects at its base and wrote clues about how to find it. The billboard stood by the side of the road -- right next to an apple tree. And the objects I was hiding this year for the scavenger hunt were . . . ping-pong balls.
We can hurt others because we're trying to hurt others. But how often have hurt feelings been the result of a misunderstanding?
When the apostle Paul returned to Jerusalem his enemies recognized him and had him arrested. As he stood on trial before the court, he announced he had been dutiful to God, and for that comment the high priest ordered Paul to be struck in the mouth.
This infuriated Paul and he shouted some insulting things at the one who gave the order.
Those present were horrified. "How dare you revile God's high priest!"
Immediately, Paul apologized. He didn't know it was the high priest. True, he felt he had been wronged, but he knew the Bible taught you should never insult the your leaders.
Misunderstandings are, sad to say, unavoidable. Even looking for a ping-pong ball has the potential to cause hurt feelings. But they can be minimized when we learn to either apologize or forgive all hurts we cause or receive.
Even the disrespectful insults from snotty-nosed kids who try to steal our apples.
(text copyright 2012 by Marty Kaarre)