Not long ago, some dear friends treated my wife and me in a very rude and insensitive manner. I’ll spare you the details, but their offense left me angry and hurt. That night in bed, I composed an email in my mind, delving into their many inconsiderate actions. Quite honestly, I wanted to hurt them like they hurt us.
I laugh as I write this, because this scenario gets replayed multiple times a year with different sets of family and friends.
But how should we respond in situations like this?
Today’s reading gives us some clues. Please join me.
(But don’t follow the example of the men in the video above)
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Leviticus 14:1-32. Cedar and yarn were required in the cleansing ceremony because they were colored red (like blood), which symbolized life. Leviticus 17:11 says, “For the life of a creature is in the blood.” Hyssop was a leafy plant that was used to sprinkle the bloody concoction on the recovering leper.
It’s important to note that the required procedures were not intended to heal the person. They were intended to provide ritual cleansing.
Mark 6:30-44. After the crowds interrupted their much-needed rest, Jesus gave the disciples a break and taught the massive throng by himself. Then, concerned for the people’s well-being, the disciples recommended to Jesus that he shut everything down. Instead, Jesus turned the problem back on them. “You give them something to eat,” he said. Far too often, I live as if God doesn’t exist and that my only options are limited to what I can accomplish without his help. But if I lived as though I really believed God exists and interacts with his creation, my life would be much different.
Mark 6:45-56. Notice Mark’s use of the word “immediately” as a transition between these story and the one preceding it. Obviously Jesus wasn’t finished teaching them an important lesson in trusting him. This becomes even more obvious when, after calming the sea, we read that, “They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.” Jesus, however, wasn’t frustrated or impatient with his followers. Nor is he today…with us.
Psalm 40:4. This verse could function as the moral to our reading in Mark: “Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust.” People who make the Lord their trust are blessed. How? They don’t worry about how God is going to provide for their needs or protect them from harm.
Psalm 40:6. The Message offers a clearer paraphrase of this verse: “Doing something for you, bringing something to you—that’s not what you’re after. Being religious, acting pious—that’s not what you’re asking for. You’ve opened my ears so I can listen.”
Psalm 40:8. “I desire to do your will.” The word for “desire” in this translation isn’t strong enough. Other translations use the word “delight.” David delighted in doing God’s will. He wrote this psalm after his sin with Bathsheba, so he’s looking back at his transgression and realizing that doing God’s will—while at times difficult and frustrating—is indeed a delight. And it ultimately always is.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
Our reading from Proverbs 10:11-12 offers some great insights into relationships, especially ones that might be a little strained.
Verse 11 says, “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked.” The next proverb, in verse 12, tells us that “Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.”
Meditating on these two proverbs makes me think about the times people hurt or offend me. Deep inside I want to give the person a piece of my mind. To be honest, I want to strike back and hurt the person to the same degree that the person hurt me.
But “violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked.” Hurting someone for the sake of hurting them comes from the wicked side in me, not the righteous. “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life” verse 11 tells us.
So where do we go with our hurt or frustration? Verse 12 offers a great insight: “Love covers over all wrongs.” The Hebrew word for “covers” means “to pardon.” The loving response is to pardon the offense. That doesn’t mean to excuse it, it means to acknowledge the hurt and still let it go.
Here’s the takeaway, for me at least. If I want to verbally strike back at a person who hurt me, I’m better off keeping my mouth shut. Unless my words are life-giving, I’m better off saying nothing at all. But best of all is pardoning the other person. Acknowledging the hurt or frustration to the offender, and then letting it go.
So how did I respond to our friends who offended us? I haven’t said anything yet. Fortunately, I never sent the email. But somewhere down the road, when I’m in a better place, I hope to engage in a conversation that pardons and produces a fountain of life.
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- What would your life look like if you really believed that God exists and interacts in your life? What prevents you from fully trusting him?
- Describe a time in your life when you struck back and hurt a person who hurt you? What did you learn? Were you able to save the relationship?
- Describe a time in your life when you refrained from striking back and chose to pardon the person. What did you learn? Were you able to save the relationship?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.