It was a warm summer night in a town near Washington, D.C.
A group of friends sat around a backyard table eating dinner when a young man with a gun appeared and interrupted the dinner party, according to a 2016 NPR story.
“Give me your money or I’m going to start shooting,” he said, pointing the gun at one of the women.
The people believed him; however, no one had any money on them.
So, they started talking to the man, first trying to play on his guilt: “What would your mother think about you doing this?”
That didn’t work — the man said he didn’t have a mother.
One of the women, Christine, said to him, “We’re here celebrating. Would you like a glass of wine?”
One of the men, Michael, said the man’s whole demeanor changed as he tasted the wine, remarked how good it was, asked if he could have some cheese, too.
He put his gun in his pocket and then said something that surprised everyone: “I think I’ve come to the wrong place” — and then he asked for a hug.
So, they all hugged him.
The man said he was sorry and walked out the gate, still carrying his glass of wine.
Stunned, the group of friends all ran into the house and cried “tears of gratitude.”
“It was like a miracle,” one of the men said.
Michigan State University professor Chris Hopwood called it “noncomplementary behavior” or “flipping the switch.”
As Hopwood explained to NPR, usually when someone is kind to you, you respond with kindness. That’s “complementary” or “mirrored” behavior.
If someone is cold or unfriendly to you, you might respond with a smile, but probably not.
Likewise, people who show hostility generally get hostility back in their face. If you doubt that, just read the sheriff’s office daily arrest report.
But being kind in response to hostility, like a gun pointed at your head, that’s “flipping the script.”
That’s not to say everyone who threatens to shoot you won’t if you offer them wine and cheese and a hug. But they might.
It’s what Jesus would do. He was the ultimate script flipper.
People spit on him, lied about him, cursed at him, accused him of being the devil himself, picked up rocks to stone him.
Finally, they nailed him to a cross, but not before they beat him to a pulp.
And what did he do? From the cross he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing” (Luke 23:34).
Before his death he told his followers that they, too, were to “flip the script.” He told them if someone stole their jacket, to give them their shirt too. And if someone hit them on one cheek, to offer the other cheek as well.
He said if someone sues you, pay more than you’re required to pay, and if someone forces you to carry something one mile, offer to carry it two.
In other words, flip the switch.
No more eye for an eye. No more getting even. No more revenge and retaliation.
No more, “You hit me, I’ll hit you harder.”
Jesus said that 2,000 years ago, and it still applies to today, with all the hostility and anger, backbiting and retaliating and just plain crabbiness going around these days.
Even among Christians.
At my church we’ve been learning about the “hard sayings of Jesus,” and this past week it was “Love your enemies.”
The pastor said most likely we will never meet a terrorist or a guy with a gun, but those aren’t our only enemies.
He said our enemies are those we don’t agree with or don’t like, or even the people we may be related to or live with who annoy us.
We show mercy and grace to others, even those we think don’t deserve it, because God has shown it to us when we definitely didn’t deserve it, he said.
“Our response to others reflects God’s response to us,” he said. “It displays the breadth of God’s love.”
He added that instead of retaliating, we’re to actively pursue our enemies with good, blessing those who curse us and praying for those who abuse us, as Jesus said.
The pastor said it doesn’t have to be showy or extravagant, just ordinary lovingkindness on an ordinary scale, consistently, to everyone.
“When you love like this,” he said, “the world will take notice.”
The script gets flipped, families and communities and nations heal, one kindness, one person, one day at a time.
Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria — I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927 or via email at email@example.com.