I'll Watch Your Back
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I really hate to be viewed as a typical tourist. But when I went to South Africa a few years ago, I was Tommy Tourist, I have to admit. I had my camera clicking everywhere. My friend, Ted, was kind enough to take me between the conferences where I was speaking to Kruger National Park; probably the finest natural game park in all the world. Of course, I was seeing things I'd never seen before. I'd see a giraffe, or a rhinoceros out in the wild or my dream. I just wanted to see wild elephants, and I did. And I'd yell at Ted like Tommy Tourist, "Stop! Pull over the car!" And I'd promptly jump out and start shooting pictures. And Ted patiently said to me, "Ron, move quickly, and I'll watch your back." I said, "Why?" I didn't think my back was that much fun to watch. He said, "Ron, you have to understand that in this tall grass, there may be lions." He went on to tell me about the tourist that had been mauled while taking pictures in Kruger National Park. It's amazing how fast I could get back in the car, and what great pictures you can take out the window. I learned to take a lot of pictures from the car. You know it's great to know, though, that there's someone watching your back when there might be a lion ready to pounce on you.
Our word for today from the Word of God comes from perhaps one of the most beloved chapters in all the Bible, the great love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13. Let me read a little of it to you beginning at verse 5. "Love is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth." Now, pay particular attention to verse 7, "Love always protect, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Can I focus on three words today? Love always protects. You see, we live in a world where people pounce on other people, like those lions in South Africa we pounce on each other all the time. There's so much vicious talk in school about other kids; a lot of vicious talk on the phone or over the Internet late at night. When you run out of things to talk about, you start talking about other people, maybe office gossip or church gossip. You know about it. It spreads bad news quickly. It spreads good news about people very slowly.
Even in your family, there could be some pretty destructive things said about another family member. And this kind of pouncing on each other is largely accepted. It's largely unchallenged. We tear people down, we spread rumors, we call names, we attack weaknesses. But Jesus proposes a radical kind of love that changes all that. Instead of, "I'll talk behind your back." He's calling for some people who will say, "I'll watch your back and make sure you're not attacked," people who are committed to the protection of other people's dignity and reputation.
Think of how naturally, maybe you've gone with the flow when someone else is being criticized. Maybe you've started the flow. This is a call to commitment to the lifestyle of Jesus; a commitment to protecting lives. Just look what happens when you start to build a reputation of interrupting the bad talk about people. You start to say, "Hey, wait a minute! I don't want to be a part of this." Or, "Have you told him that? Have you told her that?" Watch what happens when you become the person who turns the conversation from undermining the person to trying to understand why they're acting as they're acting; for helping people see needs, not just deeds; for insisting that they go straight to the person. You'll become known as one of that rare breed; one of those people who makes other people feel safe.
Love always protects. Don't be one of those attackers in the underbrush. Commit yourself to the people in your world as a loving protector, and be remembered as the one who lived out love with this commitment, "I'll watch your back."