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The Rev. Dr. Thomas Lane Butts The Rev. Dr. Thomas Lane Butts

The Rev. Dr. Thomas Lane Butts is minister emeritus of First United Methodist Church in Monroeville, AL.

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Dr. Thomas Lane Butts: The Last Lick

April 30, 2009

A little girl came in from the playground at school one day sobbing as if her heart would break. The teacher went immediately to the child and asked if she were hurt. She said she was not hurt. "Then why in the world are you crying?" asked the teacher. Between sobs the little girl said, "Susan hit me and the bell rang before I could hit her back".

The need to "get even" with people who have hurt us is strong. We want to have the "last word" in an argument and the "last lick" in a fight. Nothing is more fragile than our pride. But anybody can get in the "last word", or the "last lick" and keep the battle going. Only the strongest and the most mature can absorb the "last lick" and end the battle.

If there is anything that the world and our community needs, it is people who are filled with enough love and grace to allow someone else to have the last word or the last lick. Having the strength not to strike back causes momentary pain, but after the initial blow to pride, that pain is transformed to strange strength. Conversely, those who have the last word feel very good initially about their conquest, but after the initial flush of pride, last words begin to turn to ashes in one's mouth.

One of the notable achievements of Jesus, for which he is remembered as one of uncommon strength, was how he let the cruel world have the last lick. Even the Roman soldiers on the execution team that killed him looked up as he died and began to wonder who had really won. Today, there is no doubt as to who won. But what if Jesus had insisted on the last lick or the last word?

It takes maturity to deal with conflicts in such a way as to bring lasting victory and lasting peace. In addition to all the theological understanding of Jesus, he is also a noble and notable model for us in dealing with physical or verbal conflict.

Test the strength of your character today -- let someone else have the "last word". If necessary, let someone else get in the "last lick".

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