Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12
How do you handle petty annoyances? Like what? Perhaps the following will jog your memory. You show up at your meeting in something new, and a certain acquaintance makes some tacky comment like, “It’s about time you got something new, poor child!” You feel like leaving the imprint of your hand on the side of her face.
You put your trash out, and you know that as soon as your neighbor takes his out, he will discreetly look to see if you are watching, then raise the lid of your trashcan and pilfer through it.
You are standing in line to board a bus when an elderly lady does an end run pushing her shopping bag into you as she cuts in front of you.
Rating pretty high on my scale of petty annoyances is the following: You board a long flight and settle in with a book, or gently push your seat back to get a few winks, and behind you is a six-year-old boy who gives your seat a firm kick, then another, and another. You turn around and glare at the kid, who ignores you. His mother is oblivious to the whole thing, a headset clamped over her ears, her head bobbing to the music.
Question: How would Jesus handle those annoyances? For instance, what would He do if a kid were kicking His seat on an international flight? Do you think He would (a) ignore the kid, (b) quietly turn around and say, “Son, if you kick my seat one more time, I’m going to break your leg”–something that more than one frequent flier has considered? Or (c) would He quietly get the mother’s attention and ask her to put a stop to the kicking, or (d) would He simply get up and move to another seat?
Though you may never have connected the dots between the annoyances that confronted Jesus Christ during the three years of His public ministry and what He did, there are a number of incidents that give us some pretty specific clues as to what He might have done.
First, there were times when Jesus chose to ignore petty annoyances and irritation. Isaiah wrote that He would be oppressed and afflicted “yet He did not open His mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). Sometimes the silent treatment is the best course of action. Ignore the one who annoys you.
There were other times when Jesus urged direct confrontation, something which He himself also practiced. He told the disciples, “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you” (Matthew 18:15).
Again there were times when Jesus simply walked away from people who annoyed Him. After He began His ministry, the Pharisees increased the rhetoric. Jesus quietly took the disciples and moved to Galilee. At other times, He crossed the Sea of Galilee into the cities of Decapolis on the eastern shore. Sometimes the best way to respond to people who irritate you is to put some space between you and them.
We also know how He chose not to respond to annoyances. He never retaliated in kind–fire for fire, an eye for an eye. He never used retaliation or escalated the hostility with one-upmanship.
But He did give us a rule of thumb that works today. He said, “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). Simply treat the other person–the one who thoughtlessly irritates and annoys you–the way you would like to be treated should you inadvertently annoy someone else.
Isn’t that what the WWJD business was about a few years ago–“What would Jesus do?” It’s still the answer to annoyances.
Resource reading: Matthew 7.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The original title of this article was “When the Kid Behind You Kicks Your Seat.