As confrontations roar these days between people of opposing political opinions, torqued neighbors make it feel like you’re living on the threshold of hades itself, and snarky online comments inflict flaming arrows of hidden origin (and sometimes not so hidden), I’ll admit it hurts my heart. Yours too, no doubt.
And I know it hurts Papa God’s heart when people refuse to extend kindness to one another.
I recently read a (true, honest to goodness) newspaper account of a man who was threatened with a sword for mowing his neighbor’s overgrown lawn. Although the man (let’s call him Good Sam) had never had a problem before with Mr. Anderson when he’d reached out to cut his grass or do much needed yard work, on this particular day, Mr. Anderson stormed out of his house with a sword, yelling and threatening to kill him*.
He hollered at Sam to get off his property. Why? Because Mr. Anderson said he felt disrespected. (BTW, Mr. Anderson’s son had already eagerly given Sam permission to tackle his dad’s untamed jungle.)
Furthermore, the article stated, “Anderson said he felt threated that the victim was on a lawn mower, so he went inside and retrieved his sword. The residence is a doublewide mobile home with a front porch accessed by walking up stairs.”
Wait. Really? A guy on a riding lawn mower is going bump up your steps, cross your porch and bust into your house? To do what – trim the bushes behind your couch?
Repaying kindness with a sword. Such a sad commentary on our times.
But you know what? Unkindness isn’t something new. It’s been around a l-o-n-g time.
Take for example the biblical account of an ugly, backbiting sibling episode in the twelfth chapter of Numbers. (Grab your Bible and read this for yourself – you’ve probably never heard this one before; it doesn’t usually make the cut of the Twenty Most Popular Bible Stories for reasons you’re about to find out.)
Turns out that Miriam and Aaron – yes, THE Miriam whom we’ve always admired for cleverly saving her baby brother (Exodus 2:7) and leading the worship celebration after the Red Sea drowned the aspirations of Pharaoh’s army (Exodus 15:20), and THE Aaron whom we’ve adored as Moses’ mouthpiece (Exodus 4:30) and faithful right hand man (literally in Exodus 17:11-12) – were jealous of their hand-picked-leader brother Moses. So they got together one day to dis Mo because of the nationality of his wife and to grouse loudly and liberally about not receiving the due they felt they deserved.
Yikes. These two who were until this point completely worthy of our respect and admiration started spreading racist rumors to tear down their own brother and build themselves up. This, my friend, is not kind.
When Yahweh called them out for it, He was so spitting mad at their pettiness (“the anger of the LORD burned against them” 12:9 NIV), He not only cursed Miriam with a nasty case of temporary leprosy, He left them.
He. Left. Them.
Do you feel the full impact of this? Horrors. Can you think of anything worse? To be so revolting to the One who created you that He cannot even stand the sight of you?
Honestly, the thought of being intentionally cast out of the Lord’s presence makes me shudder.
Yet I’m no better than Miriam and Aaron. I certainly have it in me to be unkind too. Sadly, I’ve proven that more times than I care to recall.
I fear that Papa God’s point in including this sobering and unflattering story in the Bible was to show that regardless of how normally good, pleasant, helpful, smiley and obedient we may be, we all have it in us, my friend, to spout mean, spiteful words and treat even those we love (much less those we don’t) unkindly.
And then we face the terrifying possibility of our God not being able to stomach our very presence.
I think even leprosy would be preferable to that.
So let’s be mindful of how we respond to others when we feel disrespected, whether real or imagined. Do we grab our swords and start swinging? Or do we hammer them into plowshares (Isaiah 2:4)? (A plowshare, by the way is a crop harvesting tool; the gist of this verse is that there are times when we need to turn our instruments of warfare into tools for peace.)
And I, for one, would rather farm than harm. Wouldn’t you?
*Bradford County Telegraph, 4/12/18
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