On my way to work the other day, I was the victim of blatant mistreatment (please stop reading now if you have a weak stomach). I pulled up to a three-way stop, and noticed to my left an SUV that I had beaten to the intersection by at least a full second. Expecting the SUVtizen to adhere to the laws of the state of Tennessee, I came to a full, complete stop before moving ahead. To my shock and chagrin, the SUV continued rolling into the intersection and pulled out IN FRONT OF ME.
There was no question that I was first and had the place of honor at that intersection. I was the one who still had that toothpaste taste in my mouth because I went without that vital second rinse at the sink. I had earned the right of way, and it was being taken from me.
With my sense of justice in full gear, I began to take steps to even the scales which had been so unfairly weighted against me. I punched the gas and quickly caught up with the offender. Retribution was served up swiftly as I precisely brought my front bumper within 12 inches of his oversized back bumper. I carefully weaved to my left so that he was sure to feel the consequences of his action. After a couple of blocks of increasing my heart rate, blood pressure, and stroke likelihood, I relented (I had to turn).
My main problem here is that I am an unjust judge, an undiscerning jury, and an inaccurate executioner. I have a skewed understanding of what is right and what constitutes fairness. I create an inner illusion that ignores the same failings within myself that I severely judge within others.
I have run stop signs before. I have been in such a hurry that I didn’t mind cutting someone off to be just one car ahead in the traffic. I have burned with a simmering unforgiveness against people who have said something untrue about me. I have failed to properly apologize and seek reconciliation when I’ve hurt someone else. I have said cruel things to and about other people.
Yet I have held a scepter of judgement over others for these very things. So much for justice.
I have been listening lately to a sermon by Ruth Ann Batstone on forgiveness in which she highlights the passage in Matthew 18:21-35. It’s the story of the servant who was forgiven a great debt and yet required payment from someone else who owed him a small debt. Read through it some time this weekend and see if you don’t find yourself in that servant, too.