Someone You Love Drives You Nuts

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February 17 2019

Romans 12   (If at all possible, leave at peace with all persons)

    Let’s face it.  There are some people who just drive us nuts. People we know.  People we love.   They have the devious and uncanny ability to know just what buttons to push to set us off. The earth is too small to have both of us living on this same planet.  Or so it seems.  It’s like that woman about whom was said, “She never swore but she made everyone else want to.” 

    What do we do about it?  Well, conventional wisdom tells us to get back at them.  Bring them down somehow.  Let other people know what   bottom feeding scum they are. 

    In the movie “The Godfather,” the godfather says, “Don’t get mad, get even.”   There is something within all of us that would love to see people we don’t like get theirs.  Since we are non-violent people, we don’t want to see them hurt or injured, but we wouldn’t mind seeing them suffer a little mental anguish.   That’s why gossip is so delicious and insidious.  We can bring another person down by a few choice words laced with barbed wire.

    Sometimes we are driven nuts by little things people do, and sometimes their offenses against us are worthy of the major leagues.  There was this want-ad in the LA Times a few years ago.  “Would the man who abandoned his wife and infant on at 425 Church Street, San Bernadino in August, 1982 please contact me at this address.  I am that infant son and I am now 21 years old and I would like to knock his block off.”

    Well, it’s understandable.  I know people who are still grinding their teeth over their ex’s when the marriage ended decades ago.  A woman came in to see me because she was so hurt that her husband had left her.  It had been four years.  She had every right to feel hurt and betrayed, and I acknowledged that.  But after listening carefully, I said, “Sally, he’s remarried and you aren’t even on his radar screen.”  Here you are expending enormous psychic energy in thinking about him.  We need to figure out how you can move on.”

    A very nice looking truck driver  came into a diner and sat down, ordered a hamburger and cup of coffee.  Just as the waitress delivered his order, a gang of Hell’s Angels motor bike riders stormed into the diner.  They passed by his table, then one of them stopped, grabbed the man’s hamburger, and took a bite from it.  Then he took the man’s coffee cup, and poured the coffee all over the remaining hamburger. The rest of the Hell’s Angels all bent over laughing.

    The truck driver never flinched, never changed expression.  He walked up to the cash register, payed his bill, gave the waitress and nice tip, and walked out of the diner.

    When she walked over to take their order, one of the Hell’s Angels sneered, “Ain’t much of a man, is he?”

    “Nah,” she said, “and he ain’t much of a truck driver either.  He just ran his 18 wheeler over three motorcycles.”

    We like that story.  We like to see those who deserve it get their comeuppance, especially if we are personally involved.

    Vengeance is sweet.  But as Gandhi once observed, “If everyone insists on an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth, the whole world will be blind and toothless.”  On an international scale, this is exactly what we are seeing this morning between Israel and Hezbollah and Hamas.  Unless there is an interruption in this ongoing retaliation, the consequences for everyone, including those of us here so far away from the middle east, would be too devastating to even contemplate.

    But we are not talking about international relations today.  We are talking about personal relations.  Or so it seems.  But the difficulty between individuals spreads out like concentric circles, until families get involved, and communities and states and nations.  The unrest, discord, and violence in our own hearts spreads inextricably outward, like circles in a pond when we throw a rock into it.

    That’s why it’s so important for us to get a handle on how to deal with people who drive us nuts.  We can’t solve the problems of the Middle East, but we can, as God’s own people, live in such a way as not to infect the world to any greater degree with gossip, revenge, retaliation, and discord.

    For our watch word today let’s take this little verse from Romans 12, “If at all possible, and as far as within you it lies, live a peace with all people.”  I can just envision a little smile forming on Paul’s face as he writes these words, “If at all possible, and as far as within you it lies, live at peace with all people.”

    Paul planted some churches where people drove him nuts.  They questioned his credentials, his leadership, his authority.  Paul had encountered some people who made peace wherever they went, and some who made peace whenever they went.”  So he knew about difficult people.  And he knew that there were just some people we will never get along with.

    What do we do about them?

    Well, I think Paul would tell us not to gossip about them, not to speak words about them that would demean them.  In difficult cases, when we’ve really been hurt, I think Paul would counsel us to pray for them.  “Lord, help me forgive that…dirty rotten rat.”  Maybe that’s the only prayer we can muster at some point, but if we pray for the Lord’s help in being able to forgive, the other person will never change, but a slowly dawning miracle will take place in our own hearts.

    A psychiatrist named George Ritchie worked with survivors of Nazi concentration camps after World War II.  He tells the story of one survivor he called “Wild Bill”:

“Wild Bill was one of the inmates of the concentration camp, but it was obvious he hadn’t been there long.    His posture was erect, his eyes bright, his energy indefatigable.  Since he was fluent in English, French, German and Russian, as well as Polish, he became a kind of unofficial translator…

Though Wild Bill worked fifteen and sixteen ours a day, he showed no signs of weariness.  While the rest of us were drooping with fatigue, he seemed to gain strength…I was astonished to learn when Wild Bill’s own papers came before us one day, that he had been in (the concentration camp) since 1939.  For six years he had lived on the same starvation diet, sleep in the same airless and disease-ridden barracks as everyone else, but without the least physical or mental deterioration…   

Wild Bill was our greatest asset, reasoning with the different groups, counseling forgiveness.

“It’s not easy  for some of them to forgive,” I commented to him one day…”So many of them have lost members of their families.”

“We lived in the Jewish section of Warsaw,” he began slowly,  the first words I had heard him speak about himself, “My wife, our two daughters, and our three little boys.  When the Germans reached our street they lined everyone against a wall and opened up with machine guns.  I begged to be allowed to die with my family, but because I spoke German they put me in a work group.”

“I had to decide right then,” he continued, “whether to let myself hate the solders who had done this.  It was an easy decision, really.  I was a lawyer.  In my practice I had seen too often what hate could do to people’s minds and bodies.  He had just killed the six people who mattered most to me in the world.  I decided then that I would spend the rest of my life–whether it was a few days or many years–loving every person I came in contact with.” 

The psychiatrist George Ritchie concludes his account of Wild Bill with these words: “This was the power that had kept a man well in the face of privation.”

     Obviously, Wild Bill was an extraordinary man, and had a capacity to forgive and love far beyond mine or yours.  But what we had in large measure can be ours in a smaller measure–the welling up in our hearts of the power of Jesus Christ, a power that comes to us as we surrender our lives to Him.  It doesn’t mean that people will get any easier to get along.  That will never happen.  But it does mean that we will be given new resources, new resources that come to us own high, to get along with them.

Categories: Weekly Sermon

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