We can fight over the silliest things. At the beginning of our marriage, Mary and I disagreed over peanut butter. She wanted crunchy; I insisted on smooth. We compromised. So for the last 38 years, we’ve bought crunchy peanut butter.

Then there’s the fight over toilet paper: does the roll go over or under? To settle that fight, here’s the original patent:

Unfortunately, too many of us let little squabbles escalate. When property starts getting destroyed, you know your squabble is more than a squabble.

Consider the infamous Squirt Gun Riot of 1858—and, yes, they had squirt guns in 1858. They were not the monsters we’ve used but they did the job of getting you wet. We’re coming up on the anniversary of this event—October 6, 1858 to be exact—so you’ve got a few days to prepare your 21-gun (squirt-gun) celebratory salute.

The sophomores at Amherst College were well-versed in the tradition of hazing the freshmen, and the preferred method was the squirt gun. Apparently, a wet freshman is a well-hazed freshman. When the Amherst Class of ’60 were sophomores, it was their right to haze the Class of ’61 freshman. But when those freshmen became sophomores and it was their turn to haze the freshman, they chose not to do it. In other words, the Class of ’61 Sophomores were going to be magnanimous to the Class of ’62 Freshman and let them to attend class dry.

Brass Water Gun, 1851

To show their good will, the sophomores planned a funeral—complete with a coffin—to bury the squirt gun. However, the Juniors would not have it. Tradition was tradition and, by golly, they had even purchased the offending squirt gun, so they were going to take it back.

That’s when the riot ensued. The Juniors attempted to break into the room where the squirt-gun lay in its coffin. (I’m not making this up.) Throngs of juniors arrived, some broke in the door, and some tried to come from the attic, cutting through the ceiling. What they found was a lone sophomore standing guard over the coffin with a gun—and not a squirt gun!

When the sophomores heard what was happening, they came in force. By then the juniors had torn apart the attic stairs to use as weapons, but the sophomores succeeded in reclaiming the room … and the gun … and the coffin.

No surprise here, but there were a lot of injuries to go along with the physical damage. It only ended when the president of Amherst College, William Stearns, arrived. He made the juniors leave and allowed the funeral to proceed. And so it did with full 19th century funeral regalia and customs.

And somewhere on the grounds of Amherst College is buried a silly little squirt gun.

Hopefully, we can laugh at the silly things we disagree over, but silly or not, as followers of Christ we are never to lose sight of what we’re called to do: place the needs and interests of others before our own.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look not to his own interests, but rather to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4).

To do so is to live the very life Christ modeled. And far better than winning any argument (no matter how “right” you feel you are) is the act of showing deference to the other person. When you do, you’re showing more than deference. You’re showing love. You’re showing Jesus.

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