“But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:44-45a
Our dog, Mr. Hollywood, is a good boy … most of the time. But recently we witnessed one of the exceptions before our very eyes and noses. My husband Marty was working in the yard and let Hollywood run loose, figuring he’d stay around as long as Daddy was there.
Somewhere, however, the pooch managed to find a very large, very dead fish. I first realized this when he ran around the corner holding its head in his mouth, or maybe the fish was holding Hollywood’s jaw in its mouth. Either way, I had to pry the thing loose quite painfully while simultaneously gagging and yelling at the dog .
After flinging the head into the water, I took a whiff and realized that Hollywood had been so enchanted by his find that he had also rolled in it, and from later evidence on our living room rug, eaten a large portion of it. After several baths (and I bathed the dog three times, too.), laundering Hollywood’s bed, and some teamwork getting the carpet and floors cleaned and deodorized, Marty commented that the really pathetic thing was that the dog would probably do the same thing all over again if allowed to. Looking over at the very sick pooch, I seriously doubted it. But Marty was right.
Somehow, the next time Marty was working in the yard, Hollywood managed to push open the screen door, and soon we had a repeat performance, albeit with a smaller fish. I was screaming at him in frustration when it occurred to me: I was yelling at a dog for doing what dogs do, and that didn’t make sense.
But how often do we do that – judge and condemn people for doing what comes naturally to them, and sometimes even the only thing they know to do? I am reminded of a story on the news about a church that had been bombed. While the building was still smoking, a reporter stuck a microphone in the pastor’s face and asked him how he felt toward the people who had done this. I will never forget his answer.
When asked “How angry are you with these people?” he calmly replied, “It doesn’t make sense to be angry with them, any more than it makes sense for me to be angry at a blind man for stepping on my foot.”
Are we getting angry at unbelievers for doing what unbelievers do? Is our anger actually hindering our prayers for them?
When we feel like responding in anger, instead of “counting to ten,” think on these ten words:
“Don’t get angry with sinners for doing what sinners do.”
Then, instead of protesting, retaliating, or nursing grudges, let’s pray that their eyes would be opened to see the God who loves them.
After all, a dog may never change, but God is changing people every day.