Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32
Although it’s only September, I am able to share that Scrooge is alive and well. Actually, his name is not Scrooge. It’s John Devaney, a 64-year-old resident of Narragansett, Rhode Island. Of course, Mr. Devaney doesn’t walk around saying, “Bah, humbug, Christmas!” No, our present-day Scrooge makes his displeasure known by suing folks. Right now he has filed against Rhode Island’s Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, Bishop T. J. Tobin, Archbishop Carlo Vigano, and Pope Francis.
And if you are wondering what these supposed scallywags have done to Mr. Devaney, I can tell you his lawsuit accuses them of having violated his rights and denying him the “peaceful enjoyment of his property.” Indeed, Mr. Devaney claims the actions of these folks have been part of the reason he is divorced. Because of what they have done, he has been left irritable and argumentative.
And if you want to know exactly what these folks have done, I can share they have done nothing other than being remotely connected to St. Thomas More Catholic Parish and St. Peters by-the-Sea Episcopal Church. It is these churches that are responsible because they ring their bells.
That’s it. Those bonging bells are responsible for Mr. Devaney’s divorce.
Now I’ve had some fun here at the expense of Mr. Devaney, but the truth is most of us get irritable and argumentative because of little things which, quite often, aren’t sins. Me, I get upset when people leave their shopping carts in the middle of a parking space … or when they drive s-l-o-w-l-y in the fast lane … or when they come in during the last five minutes of a two-hour movie and ask, “What’s happened so far?” or ….
Wow! I didn’t know my list was that long.
Maybe yours is too.
So, what shall we do about our out-of-proportion-to-the-infraction reaction? I think the answer can be found in the life of Jesus. As I look at Jesus’ time on earth, I can plainly see Jesus always loved sinners. No matter what they did, He continued to care for them, reach out to them, call them to repentance of their sins, and offer them forgiveness and restoration.
Because Jesus loved them doesn’t mean He loved everything about them. Read the Gospels and you will find that Jesus wasn’t overly pleased with the Pharisees’ hypocrisy, with the crowd’s earthly demands, and with His own disciples’ lack of understanding. He loved those moneychangers, but He still upset their tables, didn’t He?
Now the church must always stand with the things of God, but search as I will, I find nothing in the Bible that condemns unreturned shopping carts, slow drivers, or folks who come late to movies. This is why we church people must work at putting aside all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander and malice. In its place we are to substitute forgiveness and a tender heart.
It’s a big order, but it’s something we need to do because Jesus doesn’t want His followers to be crabby, cantankerous Scrooges.
Dear Lord, let me keep my eyes focused on repairing my shortcomings, failures and sins. When it comes to others, may I treat them as Jesus has dealt with me… with tenderness, love and mercy. Amen.
Grace and Peace