It was a stormy summer night that I got off work around midnight and ran to my car to find the entire inside of the driver’s seat and dashboard completely soaked by the heavy downpour that had recently moved on. I was tired and now frustrated…ugh! But you see, it wasn’t my fault, my brother, Jeff, and I worked at the same restaurant that summer and often shared rides to work. He had driven us both in and then got picked up by one of our parents because his shift ended a few hours earlier than mine. HE was the one who was in the driver’s seat on the way to work…HE was the one who left the window down! And now I was the one paying for it! The seat was beyond soaked…the floor was puddled with rain water…and the turn signal wouldn’t shut off! I couldn’t believe he could be so irresponsible…so STUPID!
I began the drive home only to become more frustrated because not only had the rain begun to pour again, restricting my vision, but I also had to turn around and detour not just once but twice on my way home because of downed trees and power lines. My 20 minute drive took almost an hour and by the time I pulled into the driveway, my tiredness and frustration had produced many tears and grown into a boiling anger that couldn’t wait to explode all over my brother.
I marched into the dark farm house, where Jeff and I still lived with our parents, and bounded up the steps, fueled by anger, straight to his bedroom. I pounded on the door to wake him and started screaming that he better get up and go dry off the inside of MY car (it wasn’t really mine, just the one my parents let me use) because he was so dense that he couldn’t remember to wind up the window! Woken from a deep sleep, he resisted and so I continued pounding and screaming. He eventually began yelling back through the wooden door. We made so much noise that it woke my parents whose bedroom was down a floor and in the opposite corner of the house. My dad began yelling, asking what was going on, and so I “explained” not so calmly what an idiot Jeff was and what he had done.
I remember realizing that my dad went to go dry off and check out the condition of the car for himself and having some sort of exchange with him about how he shouldn’t be the one doing it. I thought that my dad should make Jeff get out of bed to be the one to clean up his mess. I don’t remember most of the specific words that were hurled around late that night, but I do remember marching back to my brother’s room one last time to scream one last insult, “I can’t believe you have to have your daddy clean up your mess for you!” At that point, standing on the other side of the door from me, he punched the hollow door so hard that it left a hole larger than his fist through the bedroom side layer of the door. The hole was left as a reminder of that explosive night.
I remember with shame my mistakes in handling that situation. I remember that I didn’t feel any better after it was all over. And I know that this wasn’t the response that Jesus teaches us to use to handle these situations…
So how does Jesus teach us to respond?
He taught us by example, with gentle rebuking –
He let those who disappointed him, those who sinned, those who made mistakes, know that He loves them, but that they can do better.
Jesus responded with love that included genuine forgiveness and showing His children a new path, not retribution, ridicule, or rejection.
In Luke, chapter 7, we learn of the Pharisee who invited Jesus to dinner. Simon, the Pharisee, questioned Jesus’ authority when He allowed a sinful woman to wash and anoint His feet. Jesus rebuked Simon and told him he could do better by following the woman’s example, since both Simon and the woman were sinners.
In the Gospel of John, when the church leaders brought the woman caught in adultery to Jesus, He did not get angry at them or at her. But He offered a way out for both parties. For the scribes and Pharisees, He rebuked them for their own sin, but also gave them a new path where they could do better by not condemning this woman. For the woman, He rebuked and told her she could do better in one phrase, “go, and from now on do not sin anymore.” (John 8:11)
Another story told in John’s Gospel is of the Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well outside of her town. This woman was an outcast of society because of her numerous relationships with men. As she begins talking with Jesus, He rebukes this woman by confronting her about her past. But Jesus also shows the woman how she can do better by revealing that the Father welcomes those that worship Him in “Spirit and truth” (John 4:23).
And do you know what Jesus said to His disciples when seeing them after the resurrection? Keep in mind that this was after He had been arrested in the garden…after Peter denied Him three times…after most had deserted Him at the crucifixion…and after Thomas refused to believe in His resurrection…
Jesus said, “Peace be with you.” (Luke 24:36, John 20:19, 21, 26)
He offered them peace, God’s peace. Forgiveness and a new path.
He didn’t berate them, but he did rebuke them…gentle rebuking. In Mark, chapter 16 verse 14, we are told that when “the eleven were at table, He appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart…” Then he explains to the disciples their new path, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15) He tells them that they can do better…and they did.
Looking back on that stormy night with my brother, I should have prayed for peace for the immediate moment. I should have dried off what I could and spoke to Jeff and my parents in the morning. At that time, I would have been able to explain calmly what had happened and discuss what needed to be done. I could have reassured my brother that he was forgiven, but be clear about how he could do better.
That would have been allowing Jesus to live in me, following His example.
Are you an exploder? When someone– your children, spouse, co-worker, friend - disappoints you, do you become so angry that you put them down? push them away? or plan some sort of payback?
If you are tempted to use hurtful words or actions as your response, take a moment (or a day) and pray for peace and guidance before you respond. Resist the extreme response and use the example that Jesus has shown us in scripture.
1. Rebuke them gently…Be upfront with them and let them know that what they did was wrong and not acceptable, but choose your words carefully.
2. Encourage them that they can do better…Offer your personal forgiveness and let them know that they have another chance to make things right through a new path.
After all, if we are to be the hands and feet of our Lord, shouldn’t we also be his voice?