There is an old legend about a New England town that was suffering through all manner of dissension and back-biting. The people were constantly involved in petty feuds pitting neighbor against neighbor. One day, the people came together and consulted a wise pastor as to how they could resolve their differences. The pastor agreed to think on the matter and send them a letter soon detailing his judgment.

A few days later, the pastor sat down and wrote his letter to the people, full of advice on how to make peace in their town. He also sat down and wrote a letter to a farmer friend of his who was having trouble with a bull. Then the pastor called up two messengers, gave them the two letters, and sent them on their way.

You can guess what happened. The pastor accidentally mixed up the letters. The message for the town got sent to the farmer friend. The message for the farmer friend got sent to the feuding town. Here is the message that the townspeople received: "You had better see that your fences are put up well in the first place. Plough your ground deep; and sort your seed; be careful not to sow foul seed; and take care of that great, ugly bull. I think you had better poke him. The rest I will tell you when I come."

The townspeople sat in silence for a long time, contemplating the pastor's strange message. Finally, one man stood and attempted to interpret it. The putting up of fences must refer to the rules of discipline in the church. The people had neglected these rules of discipline for too long. And ploughing up the ground must be another way of saying the people need to open their hearts, to allow the good seed of brotherly love to be sown. The warning against foul seed was obvious: the citizens had an obligation to sort the truth from the untruth, and not believe every morsel of gossip they heard. And the great, ugly bull could only symbolize the devil, who had come into their midst and stirred up so much strife among them.

The people were so moved by the pastor's advice that they began confessing their sins and offering forgiveness to one another. They opened up their hearts to one another and prayed for each other and peace reigned in the once-feuding town.

Feuds can be settled by spreading God’s love through hope and forgiveness.