Many years ago, my family moved into a new home and almost immediately, found themselves in the middle of a war they didn’t want (or ask for) with the neighbours.
I was only a young teenager at the time but I could see the effect this was having on my parents. My dad was recovering from a heart attack (at the age of 42) and they were desperately trying to approach the situation with as much grace as possible. But no matter what they did, the situation continued to deteriorate. It seemed there was no hope.
One day, my parents were praying about it, praying for a breakthrough, when my mum started to laugh. ‘I know what we need to do,’ she said. ‘I feel like God just told me, I need to make them a cake’.
It sounded ridiculous, but bearing in mind what an amazing baker my mum is, it might just work. She ended up pouring her heart and soul into the most important cake of her life and then, both parents went round to deliver it.
I’m not sure what the neighbours thought, but from that very moment, the relationship began to heal. Shy smiles were exchanged in the street, the beginnings of conversations were shared, till in the end, the two families were firm friends. Some years later, when a member of their family died very suddenly one afternoon, my dad was part of the emergency effort to save him, and later, sat with them and wept and prayed and helped to organise a funeral.
The family has now gone, the kids grown up, both of their parents have passed away but a gentle bond still exists with the children and now, their children too.
And it all started with a cake.
I’ve been thinking about this story this week, as I’ve watched the increasingly bitter narrative in both the US and the UK over everything from guns to immigration to Brexit.
The truth is, as humans, if we fight fire with fire, no one wins. Instead, the situation explodes into recrimination and bitterness and we spiral into the most evil version of ourselves. It ceases to become about what’s right, what’s moral and instead becomes about ‘winning’. In this case, not even necessarily about winning the next election, but winning the war of words.
Jesus knew we have this ‘need to win’ in our psyche. That’s one of the reasons (I think!) he talked about forgiveness, about letting go, about letting God take care of the vengeance stuff. His words were, ‘do GOOD to those who hate you’.
‘Instead of always looking to get even, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, instead turn the other cheek’.
Jesus knew that at the end of the day, justice prevails. And if we give in to our constant need to outdo or crush our opponent, we’ll never, ever win.
Instead, perhaps we need to ‘make a cake’ for our enemies. I’m convinced a huge power is unleashed when we choose to extend grace in a graceless situation, or when we choose instead to show love, when battle lines are drawn.
It’s the hardest thing in the world, but also the most satisfying.
Find yourself in a constantly escalating battle with someone else?
Make them a cake. Figuratively or literally.
It might just change everything.