The "firsts" in our life tend to stick with us. Well, the ones we remember stick with us. I don't remember my first word, "Mom" according to my mother and "more" according to my Dad, my first step, taken later than they had hoped and earlier than they later wished, or, my first Dairy Cream, from Mom's cone in the car when I was supposed to be breast feeding and she was supposed to be making sure her cone was safe from me. I do, however, remember my first real fist fight.
I was 10 years old and in my first term at Hillside Boarding School in Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia. I surprised how much I liked Hillside. I was surprised to find I liked being responsible for my own "stuff." I liked being able to choose my new friends. I even liked pitting my wits against the Masters (Boarding School Adult Supervisors who lived with us) and never complained when they won and I received the obligatory "6 of the best" from the government sanctioned leather strap. However, what caught me off guard was discovering there was a "shadow government" made up of the "head boy" and his followers.
I was two weeks into my first Term when on the way to the swimming pool for Phys Ed I was surrounded by my fellow students and, pushing his way through the crowd, faced by a big blond haired blue eyed Swede named Danny Svoboda. What I did not know was that other boys had challenged Danny's leadership by saying, "The Yank is going to beat you up then he will be in charge." So, when he started our 'conversation' with, "Hit me" I did what my Father had always taught me, I hit him first.
The brief exchange of blows, which led me to believe I was not going to be the one left standing, was terminated by a warning cry that the teacher was coming. Young bodies ran in all directions and Danny, looking back and seeing me standing bewildered on the track, grabbed my arm and yelled, "This way or he will catch us out of class." I leaned a couple short cuts to the swimming pool that day. More than that I formed my first friendship in Africa.
Conflict is never fun and settling a conflict with violence is rarely recommended. But that day I learned respect for your opponent in the midst of conflict could often be your best tool for future benefit.
As followers of Jesus we are inherently in conflict with our culture. When we respect the people who hold alternate views to life while holding firmly to our faith we are much more likely to make friends of the people of this world while offering them the entry to ours.