Wednesday, August 15, 2012 – 5:50PM. Jules, Caleb and I went to a park in Lakeland and sometime between when we arrived and 15 minutes later the window to our car was smashed in, and Jules’ purse, Caleb’s diaper bag, and my false sense of security were stolen. As it turns out, we are part of a trend happening throughout Central Florida – not a huge comfort…
Anyway, I have had things stolen from me before… guitar equipment, Bibles, loose change – but this was personal. There was a certain violence to it, and more than that, this incident targeted the two most important people in my life: my wife and child. And in that my anger has burned, kind of simmering under the surface.
It’s been frustrating to have to deal with insurance companies, police reports, banks, and phone companies. It’s been irritating having to replace things. But that’s not the point… It’s not what was stolen, but who was targeted, how it was done. And now anger.
Ironically enough, it has been a little over a month since I talked on anger in our Sunday Alive service, but I didn’t know then what sort of internal spiritual restraint I would be going through now. And more than anything, the words that keep ringing or buzzing in my head and heart are those from Jesus himself.
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:27-36 ESV)
Easy words to say, think, preach when you’re not faced with someone who has stolen from you. But what would I do if faced with the perpetrator? Would I give my “cloak”? Press charges? I’d like to think I have the grace to forgive and love my enemies… But honestly I’m not sure.
The frightening thing that I have to come to grips with is the last line of Jesus’ words in Luke 6:37 where he says, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” The implication is that as angry as I have been over this theft, as angry as I have been when anyone has wronged me – I deserve that amount of anger and more directed at me. I have been unfaithful to him, been dishonest in my life, thought I was much more important than I am. I deserve God’s anger, and the truth of the matter is – I deserve other people’s anger too.
Of course we would like to think we are only victims and never the victimizers, but that just isn’t true. We abuse relationships, cut people off in traffic, talk about others behind their backs, belittle those who are weaker than we are, and done a thousand other things at which we would be horribly offended. So, do we expect others to be angry with us?
God shows grace when we deserve the opposite of that, and I am praying patiently that the Lord will teach me this kind of grace… But admittedly, it’s the toughest of lessons to learn.