Let’s Pray for the Jerks

Driving to work this morning I managed to make someone very angry.  I honestly can’t tell you what I did, though I can guess.  I was getting on an interstate using the on-ramp.  I was safely following the car in front of me.  We weren’t speeding and we weren’t going unbearably slow either.  But I think I have already described the problem… we weren’t speeding.  I was in… ‘his way’.

A car that wasn’t even in my mirror the last time I looked was swerving back and forth behind me while driving painfully close to my rear bumper.  He swerved so widely, I thought he might pass on either side on the shoulder.  I looked around a little confused and realized I was already driving as fast as the car in front allowed and couldn’t see anything that I could have done differently.

I looked up in the mirror again and the man behind proceeded to gesture that I was number 1 in his book.  A pose that he held for several seconds before trying to swerve again and shake both hands at me.  This was raw, pure, rage.  As soon as the pavement allowed he zoomed passed, driving over the crosshatch section (meaning no cars should use that space) and very promptly disappeared over the horizon.  I was driving about 70 (The speed limit), and as quickly as he moved passed he had to have exceeded triple digits.

I’m tempted in several ways.  I was tempted to return some gestures of my own.  I was not doing anything conceivably or inherently wrong.  Not only was I obeying the law, there was a physical barrier preventing me from doing otherwise.  This person’s expectations were completely unreasonable AND he misunderstood a basic principle my 5 year old understands… there are cars in front of other people… and only one car can occupy that space at any given time.

I was tempted to be livid.  I wanted to speed up and not let him pass.  I wanted to take a picture and call the police.  Not only was he dangerous on the road, he was a lunatic!  Yet another person that thinks hes better than everyone else, rules don’t apply to him, and he expects me to get out of his way and let him trample all over my life…

Two thoughts slowly entered my mind:

  1.  I have no idea what this person is going through.  On the way to the hospital?  Just got fired?  Wife just left him?  Kids in jail?  Perhaps, its a combination of multiple things.  Maybe life just added up on him?  Maybe he doesn’t know God?  Can we even imagine what it must be like to live in THIS world… without any hope?
  2. If his actions have ANY impact on me, I’m not as deeply rooted in Christ as I need to be.  (and they did impact me). If anyone has the ability to alter my behavior or my choices or my personality, then I am not what I have been called to be.  I am not about the Father’s business if some stranger’s temper tantrum can deter me.

One of God’s characteristics is to be immovable.  He is unchanging.  He is our Rock.  Steadfast.  I wanted to be immovable too… and not let that driver be so reckless.  I wanted to teach him some patience.  I wanted to put him in his place.  I wanted to dig in… in this world.  I wanted to stand my earthly ground.  God is immovable for us.  He is constant and unchanging.  I need to be that for Him.  But I choose to only be that when it benefits my many moods and constantly changing desires.

I did something today that I’ve never done before.  I prayed for that guy.  When it set in that he could be having the worst day of his life, and I’ll never know what he is feeling in the pit of his soul, I just wanted to pray for him.  And this isn’t to brag, I could go on endlessly about the horrible ways I usually react to this type of person (and I’m being kind to even give them people status… they are definitely my hot button).

This isn’t a brag because I realized how desperately I need to do this for everyone.  For every jerk, for every greedy person, for every misunderstood individual, for every person having a bad day… for everyone.  I need to love them the way I want God to love me.  If I need forgiveness… and I need a lot, I need to pray for them to have it too.  To find peace in their life.  To meet the master.  To gain perspective.  To have some hope.

If anyone needs prayer, its those that don’t know they have a Father to help with their struggles.  They don’t need self professed Christians like myself making their lives worse.  They don’t need judgement from other sinners, they don’t need retaliation, they don’t need worldly justice (as much as I have truly desired exactly that!).

What they need is to be treated like children.  The ones that were ushered through the disciples, who tried to shew them away, and led safely to the Lord who sees them for who they truly are.  We may not always have a ministry opportunity with people filled with hate, depression or despair.  But we can choose to not pile on more.  We could, maybe, be the first kind person they have met.

Jesus constantly found people in the middle of their mess.  Prostitutes, tax collectors, murderers, thieves… and yet they saw compassion and love when they deserved nothing but a taste of their own medicine.  Forever longing to be more like Jesus, I think prayer is the first thing we can do when we run across these people.  Prayer followed by a firm understanding of where we come from and who we serve.

I want to pray for the jerks… because I can be one of them.  And I can be down in my moments of discouragement.  And, its not my place to judge them.  I don’t have to reinforce their decisions, or appreciate their methods, or condone their behavior… I just have to love them and bring them to the Father as children that need Him.  And if I can do this honestly and repeatedly, perhaps I can climb off my pedestal and realize that we are all sinners in search of a King willing to save us.

If we have found that Savior, how much MORE should we love and have compassion for those still searching?  Tragedy is when souls seek forgiveness and find judgement from others who have found grace for themselves.


Photo by Nick Bolton on Unsplash

Greetings Sinner!

Good morning sinners!

Or, would you prefer to be addressed as something else? Something a little less blunt and honest? Lets face it, you most likely read that greeting and hung your head down knowing you have a checkered past that you regret, or you got angry because you are living in denial. We are all sinners. Some of us have just forgotten about that. Some of us don’t want to be reminded as it’s in our past.

There is a movement that I have noticed among Christians that seems to have lifted a passage or two out of our Bibles.

“Do not judge” Matthew 7:1

Whew! It’s still there. What a powerful and complete thought in three blunt and irrefutable words. Why not judge? Well we don’t even have to turn the page to find out why we shouldn’t judge. It’s the very next sentence. If you judge, you will be judged. And that verse is extremely threatening because each one of us deserves the cross for our sins. Some of us have dropped to our knees and made life sweeping changes at the thought of Jesus taking on our sins and redeeming us from our fate.

And for those of us that know Jesus personally, we get that verse. We get Paul. The Christian murderer who went on to proclaim Christ and who has become a saint in the eyes of many new believers. We understand the prostitute. The woman whose death-sentence was being carried out until Jesus gave permission for any perfect person around to finish her off. With no one able to meet that criteria she walked away a new woman with a simple command, “sin no more”. Why no more? Because Jesus knew what his cross meant for us. It was a dividing line that bridged a massive gap between yesterday and today. Yesterday we lived in sin and today we live in Jesus. The cross did that. His sacrifice for us did that. Jesus allows us to live a new life, innocent of our past.

So all we have left to tidy up this gift of salvation is our hypocrisy. Our ability to thank God for forgiving us from our past and then turning to our neighbor and condemning them for theirs.

And here is the really hard part. We all know people we would love to forgive right now. Or at least allow God to forgive them… but we know deep down that if we did that, we would have to allow forgiveness for others, and that would put them all on the same playing field. And, if we are brutally honest (which is the only kind of honesty) that makes us sick. We want to forgive one person while claiming another person is irredeemable.

“That all of them may be one”. John 17:21. Jesus’ final prayer to God before being executed. We are one in our sin. We are one in our forgiveness. Jesus wants us all to be one in Him. He knew then, that evil would tempt us towards division.

I’m not proud of my sin. I’m actually proud of very little in my life. But I find great pride in my future. I am happy and secure in God’s promises for me. And the thing I’ve noticed in my short life as a forgiven Christian, is that I’m not looking at the sins of others, when I’m looking at God. I’m not judging others, when I’m trying to improve my own life.

I’m not much on challenging others or calling people out. But I thought this verse was particularly helpful to me today. I can imagine the rebuttals, and the exceptions, and the what-ifs being hurled directly, indirectly, or even under the reader’s breath. But this verse speaks for itself. Lets try it out:

But….

Do not judge.

You are forgetting…

Do not judge.

How about…

Do not judge.

But…

Do not judge.

This person…

Do not judge.

The Bible also says…

Do not judge.

Aren’t you judging us right now?

Do not judge (besides, it’s a loving reminder :p)

I like it when it’s simple. Jesus knew the minds of people. If only one person stood before the prostitute with rock in hand, ready to stone her to death for her sin, and Jesus gave them a chance to admit sin in their own lives… they could have easily justified throwing with full force. Our minds are tricky that way. We can rationalize a lot of things. But this was a community of believers. They looked around at each other and their minds began to fact check. That guy knew me when I was a teenager, I can’t throw this in front of him. She saw me after prom, I can’t throw in front of her. All alone we can summarize a quaint, perfect, existence for ourselves… until we remember we have a past. And then we catch a glimpse of those we have wronged ready to cast blame at another.

As a community of believers, we have strength in sobering up to our true pasts and current selves. As one, the one unit that Jesus prayed we would be, we can’t honestly cast stones at each other. It’s far too easy to judge. The enemy uses it as a sucker’s game to lure us in and we just keep dropping money until, before we know it, we are broke. The high road is to follow the scripture. “Do not judge”. Period. Amount of anger does not matter. Level of depravity does not matter. Humiliation suffered does not matter. There isn’t an asterisk in the ancient manuscript that points us to all of the exceptions where it’s OK to judge. Its simply never allowed. Instead, we have bigger fish to fry. We have sin in our own lives that needs forgiveness. We have enemies to pray for, possibly the very ones we are tempted to judge. We have service to provide. We have a world that desperately needs to see the love of Jesus in each of our hearts.

A judgmental heart is accompanied by an idle mind. One that has the time and energy to put towards work against the will of God. Harsh? Perhaps. But let’s be honest, we’re all sinners. And we need each other focused on God and leaning on each other in the spirit of love. We need each other judgement free, so that we can confess to each other, work with each other, love one another, and be one with each other.

Let me try one final analogy. Eternity isn’t the time where we start learning to get along. I would go so far as to say that it will be a required trait to have mastered BEFORE we leave this side of life.