I killed a guy this week.
Oh, believe me, I was completely justified. He really had it coming. He was one of THOSE people.
I was already miffed because I had been delayed by two separate car wrecks and was running late for work. (Sidenote: Why do I always count my problem of being stuck behind a car crash as bigger than the problem of those being pulled from the wreckage?)
Anyway, even though I was behind schedule already, I still needed to make a stop at Plaid Pantry.
So of course I ended up behind a guy who had to slow down the line and make his problem, my problem. He started picking an argument, ranting at the clerk about having to show ID to buy cigarettes and raging against the idiotic law requiring her to ask him for it. He even tried to rope me into joining his crusade. Worst of all, he looked old enough to have been buying cigarettes for years and he finally did show his ID, so he must’ve known the routine and been through it before. Yet he had to start freaking out now?
On the outside, I hid my feelings. I tried to look as disinterested as possible, silently willing him to finish his stupid purchase so I could get out of there.
But inside I was deeply, deeply irritated.
So I killed him.
I didn’t kill him physically. (What am I, some kind of psycho?!) No, I killed him in the context of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount:
You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.’ I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. (Matthew 5:21-22, The Message)
Why does God always bring THOSE people into my life? I don’t mean the warm-fuzzy kind—the romantic soulmate, the trusted mentor, the BFF. No, I mean those infuriating drama queens and kings who worm their way into every nook and cranny of my business, who push my buttons and get under my skin, who bring chaos to the calm. People who, even if I am totally right, make me feel 100% wrong—and if I am wrong, they just tuck away that little demerit to use against me in the future.
God loves to let THOSE people cross my path.
Sadly, I find myself killing them all at some point.
I can say that about my attitude toward the guy at Plaid Pantry. And plenty of other people too.
It’s amazing how Jesus can take murder—which seems like such a huge, whopping sin that I’m pretty sure I’d never commit it—and bring it so close to me that I can feel my guilt oozing from every pore. Though I haven’t committed murder according to the laws of the state, I have committed it according to the law of God. I have harbored deep ire, even rage, toward others: that convenience-store crusader, that frustrating neighbor, that critical coworker, that former boss who refused to see any good in me. According to Jesus’ definition of the law, in all of these cases I stand guilty of murder. I am no different than Ted Bundy or Jeffrey Dahmer.
So now that I stand convicted of breaking the commandment against murder, is there anything I can do about it? Frankly, in practical terms, no. That is what the cross is for. Jesus’ interpretation of God’s law rips us from our pharisaical ruts and brands us with guilt. But that’s why Jesus came. We are holy not because we keep the Ten Commandments—according to Jesus’ words, we manage to break them daily—but because of his work on the cross.
I think God puts THOSE people in my life to force me to leave my comfort zone and show God’s grace to the world, as he has shown it to me. In truth, I’d rather stay dumb, fat and happy in my own little club of warm-fuzzy people who love me. But THOSE people keep chafing away at the callouses on my heart. Through trial and error—multiple errors—God softens and smoothes me more and more. Hopefully, in time, I will begin to see THOSE people through Jesus’ eyes—as treasured individuals for whom he died.
Just like me.