While most children (nay, every son of Adam and daughter of Eve) struggle with this daily, I think my difficulty lies in the apparently insufficient explanation I have given of this pretty huge part of the Christian message.
Granted this is not a lesson one should teach in the heat of battle, so I try to talk about this daily in quiet conversation -- call it a "training session."
Among other things we talk about the parable of the wicked servant who blessed the rich man when he had his debt forgiven, but wouldn't forgive the tiniest debt of another man. "Don't you see how that guy is wrong?"
"Dontcha see how the wicked servant should have behaved? How should he have behaved y'all?"
And on and on till I get a sense they have finally understood and are willing to ascend to the behavior required of a person trying to live in civilized society--not least obtain the Kingdom of Heaven.
Pretty simple stuff one would think.
Just when I believe my words have warmed their cold, little, selfish hearts I hear a scream from across the house: "You did it to me!! Now I get to do it to you!" Max, who thinks he's pretty hot stuff because he is an altar boy, sometimes invokes the Lord: "Ella! I can hit you now because you just hit me! That's what Jesus said!!!" Sometimes he'll make stuff up like, "Jesus says that you gotta give me that because ..."
But today was the crowning glory of all of my muddled theological training of the children. Like I said, I try not to teach when the children are in the heat of battle, but today was different. I heard a yell from the den and LMark bolted into the living room where I was. Max calmly stormed past me, righteously hollering how the Lord says he has a right to hit Little Mark back because he hit him with a block or a car or something.
I stopped him, "Whoa there! Jesus doesn't say you are supposed to hit him back, Max."
Max panted a little, just to be dramatic.
"Actually, Max, Jesus says you are supposed to 'turn the other cheek.'"
--And before he muttered anything disrespectful, I interrupted him, "It means that you're not supposed to get even with Little Mark when he hurts you. If someone hurts you, you shouldn't try to hurt him back. If Little Mark slaps one side of your face, you are supposed to turn your face and let him slap the other side."
While I can't sufficiently describe the baffled silence that ensued, I can easily say that Max, with a single word, crystallized not only the plaintive wail of fallen Humanity, but also the injured cry of both the universally offended and the perpetually disrespected, when he said,
I don't think he learned anything from this incident because neither Rose nor I could stop snickering--nor quoting him, "What??!!" which sent us into giggles for five minutes or more while he stood by looking injured.
I suppose I deserve what I get.