I took Briana, age 18, on a “Daddy Date” to an Angels’ baseball game. We got shut out, but we enjoyed being together. We shared a meal and snacks from our perch on the very top row behind home plate. We talked about all sorts of things and we reminisced on the fun times we had at games when she was little, bringing our rally monkeys to cheer our team on and even seeing them win the World Series in 2002!
To remain happily engaged with the Lord and my daughter, despite my team being shut out, proved to be a small test. While we were at the game someone slashed one of my tires and cut deep grooves into the paint all around my car! It looked horrible. Was it a mean prank? Was someone angry at me? It doesn’t matter. I was violated by an evil act.
Respond in Anger or Blessing?
“That was an expensive baseball game!” someone said to me. And it set in motion some time-consuming matters to take care of: putting on a spare tire, calling our insurance, researching body shops, taking the car in for repair, and going without a car for over four weeks.
Of course, I could be angry. That’s a natural reaction. I could complain and regret going to the game, letting this injustice spoil my evening with Briana. That’d be understandable. But I didn’t go to those places. Instead, what flashed in my mind when I saw that my car had been vandalized was, “I know how to respond to this: it’s an opportunity to bless the one who has cursed me. Lord, I forgive him and I pray that you’d bless him.”
I’ve been in spiritual training with Jesus for years learning how to share his mercy with people who offend me and often I don’t respond as Jesus would if he were me. I’m still learning! But here was a time that by God’s grace I was able to love my enemy! (One example of how I’ve trained for this situation was to use this amazing prayer by Bishop Nikolai when he suffered in the Dachau concentration camp: “Bless My Enemies, O Lord.”)
Sharing the Mercy of Christ
I thought about the mercy of Christ for me and how blessed I am to be loved by God and to be part of his kingdom. Then I began to share that love by praying for the man who committed this crime against me. And every time I started to feel offended or hassled by this situation I prayed for God to bless this man. (Of course, I also verbalized my upset emotions to God and friends as needed.)
The main point here is that I’m well-taken care of by God and will be for all of eternity! My sins are forgiven and I am loved unconditionally. I have a wonderful family and friends. I get to serve the Lord and bring honor to him with my life. I have “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8) and the “peace that passes understanding” (Phil. 4:7). I live in my Father’s world where there is “no condemnation” for me because I am in Christ (Rom. 8:1).
But consider this man’s suffering? He must be an angry, miserable person. He has to live with himself every day. What does he do to make his guilt feelings go away? Maybe he drinks or does drugs. Imagine when he has a conflict with a loved one how angry he probably gets. Imagine how angry he gets at himself when he makes a mistake. What if he were to spend eternity in hell? He is probably in a living hell now.
I get to live with Jesus Christ in the Kingdom of the Heavens now! Having my tire slashed and my car keyed was like getting bad mosquito bites that hurt and itch. I’m okay. I’m thankful that I get to bless the one who cursed me, even as God continually blesses me, despite my sins. So I got to have a ministry of joining with the love and mercy of Jesus Christ who taught me: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27-28)
But what about justice and boundaries? Yes, these are important. I wouldn’t want you or me to live in trembling fear and crippling shame over being repeatedly violated by people. As a psychologist I’ve talked to countless people in that position and helped them to heal and to learn to feel their anger and be empowered to be able to say “No!” There was a time in my life that I needed to learn to do that too.
Here’s what’s most important for us: “While we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8). It’s the greatest blessing of all to pray for the mercy of Christ to reach someone who is lost.
Who knows? Maybe this man that was my enemy will be my friend in heaven? Yes, Lord, let it be so!