Summary: Is our right to withold forgiveness more important than doing the right thing?
Late one summer evening in Broken Bow, Nebraska, a weary truck driver pulled his rig into an all-night truck stop. The waitress had just served him when three tough looking, leather jacketed motorcyclists - of the Hell’s Angels type - decided to give him a hard time. Not only did they verbally abuse him, one grabbed the hamburger off his plate, another took a handful of his french fries, and the third picked up his coffee and began to drink it. How would you respond? Well, this trucker did not respond as one might expect. Instead, he calmly rose, picked up his check, walked to the front of the room, put the check and his money on the cash register, and went out the door. The waitress followed him to put the money in the till and stood watching out the door as the big truck drove away into the night.
When she returned, one of the bikers said to her, "Well, he’s not much of a man, is he?" She replied, "I don’t know about that, but he sure ain’t much of a truck driver. He just ran over three motorcycles on his way out of the parking lot."
Jesus said: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you. If anyone hits you on one cheek, let him hit the other one too; if someone takes your coat let her have your shirt as well.” But, not everyone pays attention.
Listen to this item of news from Oklahoma city, dated Feb.7:
About 250 people who were injured or lost loved ones in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing which left 168 dead and more than 500 injured want to watch Timothy McVeigh put to death for the attack. Federal prison officials are weighing how to accommodate those who want to witness the first federal execution since 1963, and are even considering the possibility of a closed-circuit television broadcast. The death chamber at the federal prison where McVeigh is scheduled to die by lethal injection on May 16 has only eight seats for witnesses for the victims. Martha Ridley, whose daughter Kathy was killed in the bombing, said she faxed a response 35 minutes after getting the letter from the government...Paul Heath and seven other bombing survivors have asked attorney Karen Howick to go to court if necessary to give victims a closed-circuit telecast of the execution.
Yesterday the CBC website carried this story from Middlesex, New Jersey: An eighth-grade student who allegedly compiled a "hit list" of people she wanted to kill has been charged with 10 counts of making terrorist threats. The 13-year-old girl allegedly compiled a "People2kill" list with the names and photos of fellow classmates.
Not long after the shootings in Littleton, Colorado, someone installed fifteen wooden crosses, each eight feet tall, side by side on a hill near Columbine High School. Each of these crosses bore the name of one the persons who died at the school. Thirteen of these crosses were for the victims. Two were for the perpetrators themselves. People came to these stark wooden crosses in droves: to grieve, to remember, to lay flowers, to burn candles, and to leave messages.
Shortly after these fifteen crosses were set into position on that Colorado hillside, the father of one of the victims took matters into his own hands. In great grief and anger, he pulled down the crosses for Eric and Dylan, as others stood by watching. These two crosses were then removed from the hillside. As a compromise, the man from Illinois later proposed to set up two new crosses for Eric and Dylan, in a place quite separate from the other thirteen crosses. But the irate father said, “Under no circumstances should you honour these murderers. If he puts them up again, I will take them down [again].”
I know what you’re thinking...those are all Americans. They tend to be more on the aggressive side. We Canadians just fume on the inside. We won’t get even, we’ll just keep score. As Stephen Leacock put it: I owe my teachers a lot, and I mean to pay them back some day! Or we’d rather keep our feelings to ourselves, even if those feelings show up as ulcers, high blood pressure and heart conditions. And when we do express ourselves, we’ll do it quietly. We get mad at the church, we’ll get even by leaving. We want to get even with our spouse, we’ll walk out. We want to teach our children a lesson, we’ll leave them out of the will. We have a right to do what we want, don’t we? Don’t we have a right to retaliate?
Jesus moves us beyond the question of OUR RIGHT to retaliate to the issue of making THE RIGHT response. He gives some illustrations from his time that would have struck his original listeners as being humorous.