Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Reflective Tuesday.

I've been holding anger in my heart for a couple of days.

On Saturday, a neighbor of mine told me all about the latest neighborhood scandal, and I listened with horror and disgust.

A grouchy, middle-aged man (we'll call him Pete), who lives a few houses down from me, recently hit and killed another neighbor's dog (we'll call them Adam and Jen). Pete was obviously speeding when he hit the dog, which, I'll grant it, shouldn't have been in the road. The dog flew several yards before hitting the pavement. But his response was appalling. He stopped, got out of the car, and said, "How's the dog?" When Jen answered, frantically, "Not good, I think she's dying," Pete got back in his beat-up car and drove away without another word.

A week or so later, Pete went to Adam and Jen's house and knocked on their door. He told Adam that their dog had caused damage to his headlights, and if they didn't pay the bill, he'd take them to court.

Of course, the neighbors who know about this are outraged, and I admit that I've been outraged, too. I've been putting myself in Adam and Jen's shoes - what if that had been Bo? How could I have kept myself from taking a bat to his car the moment he killed my dog, let alone when he threatened to sue me? And then I put myself in Pete's shoes - what if I had been the one to hit the dog? How could the proper response not be apologies and guilt, even if the dog was in the street where she shouldn't have been?

I'm so much better than him.

Pete's a dog owner, too, I kept thinking. He should have more empathy. And every time I walked by his house, I felt myself seething.

I told this story to my mom yesterday. She, too, was appalled. But then she made a good point.

"How sad," she said. "But you know, we usually feel sorry for a dog who's been beaten or neglected and becomes mean or aggressive. We're much harsher toward the way people act."

She was right, and that stuck with me. Along with the fact that holding pent-up anger in my heart was doing nothing good, I was not thinking like Jesus.

Remember the story of Zacchaeus? (Yes, I totally had to Google how to spell that.) He stole from anyone and everyone. But Jesus had mercy on him.

You might say, "But humans aren't dogs." True, true. But like dogs, we rely on instinct and emotion when we act. Like dogs, we're flawed. We're capable of much greater things... but also capable of much greater evil. We're also, compared to a perfect God, pretty stupid.

Maybe Pete, as a child, was beaten or neglected. Maybe he had to work in a job that stripped him of compassion or empathy. Those things don't excuse his behavior, but they would explain it. And they would give us reason to pity him.

Christ would have compassion on Pete. But I only felt judgment and anger.

My mom's comment really impacted me. People like Pete are often a product of their past. Without the redeeming blood of Christ, how can he overcome it? Truly, there, but for the grace of God, go I.

Things to think about on this Reflective Tuesday.


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