Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Stop Stewing and Get Busy

A few years ago I was headed out to drop Christine off at a local church.  As I approached a traffic light, a woman pulled out in front of me.  In her attempt to get to the left lane, she stopped dead, blocking my lane.  I lightly tapped the horn and motioned for her to back up.  Nothing.  So, I rolled down the window and asked -- really I did, I asked her to move back, out of my lane to allow me to pass.  Well, this grey-haired woman sitting somewhere south of the steering wheel, let loose this stream of obscenities I could not believe!  I got the gist -- NO!  Bad enough I could see the church from the light -- it was right there, I wanted it, and I had every right to it -- but the what-for?!  After I was so good?  I felt wronged.  I dropped Christine off and went about the rest of my errands.  Of course, who do I run into at the market?  Yep, Potty Mouth!  And now she's singing church hymns as she cheerily wheels her cart past my car!  Now I was incensed!  Nevertheless, I remained quiet.  "She must be a lunatic," I reasoned.  "Besides, what would it accomplish?"  I was trying really hard to be a "good Christian" back in my legalistic days.

But, do you know teeth-gritting, seething silence not what God expects from us?  Romans 12:14 says to bless those who persecute us.  And not just those who blatantly persecute us for our name -- Christian, Believer, Born-Again.  What about those who "test" our faith?  Those who push us to the point we want to "unleash the beast?"  Who mock God and everything we stand for by waging unjust warfare in the name of Christ?  Or those who simply mistake kindness for weakness; who defy others to "call them" on their socially unacceptable or reprehensible behavior, and meet them on their terms.  We are not to bury our heads in the sand; we are to take action.

We forgive them as much as we can.  I've learned some forgiveness is a two-way street.  When it comes to those closest us, if they wrong us they must want to be forgiven.  We demonstrate love for one another by not wanting to hurt each other, if a relationship is to remain healthy, fair and fulfilling.  If someone, for whatever reason is unaffected by or unapologetic for the pain they've inflicted, we must make prayerful decisions and seek God's counsel regarding how the relationship is to continue.  For those with whom we have no apparent "investment" or "commitment," we forgive, anticipating our next encounter and not allowing the previous one to affect us so negatively; we remember who we are -- sinners saved by God's grace alone, undeserving of "breaks," or special treatment, or kindness by a world in which we once walked.

We love them.  When I was young, my father scolded me for "loving" my dog.  "You can't love someone or something that cannot love you back."  Like forgiveness, some love is a two-way street -- like when it comes to those with whom you chose to make your life.  But the Greek language is wonderful in that it distinguishes between that kind of love and agape love -- selfless, unconditional, requiring nothing from others.  If my dad had been right, there's no possible way God could have loved me enough to send Jesus to the cross in my place.  That's what He requires of us toward our enemies or, as in Luke 6, Christian-haters and those with an active desire to hurt.  If we love them, it only follows that we do good to them, bless them and pray for them.  For what is love but wanting good things for someone? for wanting God to give them the best? for asking God's protection for them?  Romans 12:20 says to feed him, give him something to drink.  Bread of Life or Panera's.  Living Water or Propel.  Whatever it takes -- this is love, after all.
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