When my wife and I have stuff to carry in and out of our house we put the dog out back so he doesn’t sneak by us and escape while we are going back and forth. Which generally means he’s probably going to bark because he wants to be involved in whatever we’re doing. Yesterday, while we were moving my wife’s backseat back into her car, we put the dog outside like usual. After three to four minutes of shuffling the seat back in, I went to get the dog.
When I opened the back door I could hear our neighbor, a couple townhouses down, yelling over the fence for my dog to shut up. Two of the sentences I heard, and can repeat, were, “Shut your d*** dog up.” and “F***ing renters.”
At this point I realized I had two options; I can give this guy a taste of his own medicine (which I really wanted to do), or I could turn the other cheek and just say sorry. Painfully, I chose the latter.
It’s easy to read and say “love your neighbor as yourself,” but when your neighbor hands you your butt on a platter it’s a lot harder to live. We have had no prior conversations with these neighbors other than saying hello in passing, so its tough for me to understand what we, my dog included, would’ve done to incite such a nasty response. After sharing this experience with a friend he said, “You’d at least like to earn that kind of hatred.”
It often doesn’t feel very “satisfying” to do the right thing. I stewed for about an hour and even had to take the dog for a long walk just to get over the fact that I wanted to go give them a piece of my mind, but I couldn’t. I’m called to love always, even when it isn’t fun.
We’ve all have probably had similar experiences, when everything inside you wants to respond with the same kind of anger that’s been thrown at you. We constantly live in the tension of “how I want to handle this” and “how Jesus has called us to handle it.”
It can be incredibly lonely when someone, for whatever reason, is just down right mean. Even when you know it’s not deserved, it can be difficult not to own what they’ve said about you or at you, not matter how untrue those words are.
One of the great things about Jesus is that during his time on this earth as fully man and fully God He experienced anything and everything we do. Every temptation and every emotion we will ever deal with has been dealt with by Jesus before us. We are following a God who has “been there, done that” to the max.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:15-16
Jesus has been through it all so he will be faithful to give us the help we need when we need it.
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13
You are not alone. The next time you are treated like crap, and want to respond by dishing out some more crap, remember that Jesus is strong enough to give us whatever it is we need to get through those tough moments. Know also, that your bothers and sisters in Christ all around the world are struggling to represent Jesus well in similar moments in their own lives.
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” – Proverbs 15:1
How do you handle moments like these? What would you suggest is helpful in remembering to always respond with love?