Teeth bared, growls ferocious, their muzzles tilted back and forth as if trying to find the best place to lock onto one another. Larger Bella ran at Chloe and broadsided her, sending her rolling, then pounced on top. In seconds, more experienced Chloe had her legs wrapped around Bella and flipped her over, like a wrestler reversing a pin. Sometimes they ran headlong into one another like charging bulls and as they met, the saliva flew in all directions. I learned to stand way back.
How did I know this wasn’t real, that it was simply an older dog teaching a younger through play? Because they never drew blood. If you watched their mouths, neither ever closed tightly on the other dog’s body anywhere. And when they finished, they stood panting for a few moments, energy spent, both tongues dangling toward the ground, looking at one another. Often they would touch noses, then walk shoulder to shoulder back to the shade, Chloe under the truck and Bella under a tree—lesson for the day over.
I remember a time when brethren could discuss things, even differing views on a passage, and each come away having learned something. They could trust one another, not only to have each other’s best interest at heart, but also to listen and consider fairly, and never to become angry. Even if voices rose, no blood was drawn, spiritually speaking, respect continued, and both left with more knowledge and insight.
What has happened to us? If someone disagrees with me, it makes me mad or it hurts my feelings, and either way I don’t like him any more. It is no longer about learning and growing—it about winning arguments and putting people down. Instead of being able to trust a person because he is a brother, one must try to find a brother he can trust, and it isn’t easy. That’s not just a shame, it’s a tragedy. If a man say, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar: for he that loves not his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment have we from him, that he who loves God love his brother also. 1 John 4:20-21
God meant us to learn and grow together, honing our skills and building one another up. It might make us occasional sparring partners, but in that sparring we learn how to handle the word more accurately, we learn how to defeat the gainsayers who deny the Lord, and the false teachers who might be after our souls. And after that sparring match, we “touch gloves” and leave with our love and respect intact.
At least that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17