There are not too many things one can do to get me all riled up, but I remember a time when someone managed to do just that. The finer details have long been forgotten but a story had been concocted in which I had carried out actions at an event that I had not attended.
At the time the issue came to my attention, I had no physical access to the offender and the longer I thought about what was said, the more I fumed. The very next friend who asked me how I was doing got an earful, all the way down to the urge I had to deliver a knockout punch to the offender.
She listened, for however long it took for me to get it all out, before dropping this gem: “They have a problem with lying, but you have a problem with anger and we need to talk about that.”
Personal spiritual issues trump peripheral issues any day of the week.
The offence my Father had allowed was packaged with grace to get to the core of a deep-seated issue that I had pushed aside when I should have committed to throwing it out. My unChristlike thought process was no less an offence to God than the offence I had endured.
Ugh… that hurt more than a ton of bricks to the chest.
I could keep my festering wound or I could hand it over to the Master Healer. Right then. Not after I had punched someone’s lights out. Right then.
Jesus’ parable of the two debtors in Luke 7:41-43 has some underlying wisdom that speaks to the soul:
There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me, therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.
The question that arose in my mind came from the second sentence in that passage: “… and when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both…“
Was either debtor in a more privileged position?
Whether the debt was little or much, neither had anything to pay. Any payment of their debt would need to come from another source. Both were impoverished and in need of help. Neither was in a position to look down his nose at the other. Each man had need of exactly the same thing.
When we lift our eyes to behold God’s standard, we all fall woefully short. Our debt exceeds our means by far. Nothing we can dream up would be sufficient to procure our salvation. Whether our sins seem small or great in our eyes – malice or murder, lust or fornication, envy or stealing, malice, prejudice or lying – we have no just cause to look down our noses at those who sin differently. We all, without exception, stand in need of exactly the same thing.
And thus, I was served a healthy portion of humble pie to be consumed prayerfully with a repentant heart.
My unrighteous anger was not less offensive to God… maybe more so, since I was able to identify my own wrongdoing as well as point out what was wrong with what the other person had done. For all we know, the offender had not been equally enlightened and I did not feel nearly as zealous about setting them straight.
When we view our struggles in light of the price paid at Calvary, we recognise that our wrestling, like Jacob’s, is not with flesh and blood. Stephen recognised this very thing when, like His Saviour, he pleaded for the forgiveness of his persecutors.
Freely we have received grace. Freely we must extend same.
The beauty of grace is that once we let go of the anger we hold in our hearts, we find we suddenly have room for more of Christ and, consequently, more love for our fellowmen. Funny how that works.
Here’s to a beautiful grace-filled day.
Be ever so abundantly blessed.
Photo credit: D. Williams