"I don't care. They have sinned and now they must pay the price for that sin. God is punishing them and we shouldn't attempt to do things that would undo His wrath."
Jessie and Cletus had been arguing for hours. Their new neighbors had been the source of the disagreement and the more they argued the more rigid the lines of disagreement became. All Jessie had wanted to do was to go next door with a plate of cookies to welcome the two men into the apartment building. Cletus was adamant that no interaction with these new neighbors was ever to take place.
"Cletus. It's just cookies. What is so wrong with a plate of cookies and a little friendliness?"
"Because it is an action condoning the evil choices they have made. It shows that you feel it is ok to disregard God's laws," Cletus said as he paced the room, increasingly agitated by the turmoil raging inside. "Instead of cookies, we should be making it clear that they are not welcomed here. We should be organizing the apartment building and protesting to the landlord about his decision to allow them as tenants."
"That's ridiculous!" Now Jessie could feel her blood begin to boil. "What about the Great Commandments? Jesus said we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. How can you sit there spouting religious dogma and not remember our commandment to love? Besides, one of them looks to be very sick. We should be finding out if there is anything we can do to help?"
"HELP? My God, Jessie, do you hear what you are saying? He is sick with AIDS! God has damned him with this disease and He will punish anyone who condones homosexuality. It is a sin and this is his punishment."
Jesse reached out a hand to her husband and attempted to calm his rage. She was certain that he could be heard through the paper-thin walls into the apartment next door, if not throughout the building. He shrugged off her touch and turned once again to the balcony window, his body as rigid and cold as the winter scene that stretched out before him. With his voice tight and every fiber of his body fighting control, he once again attempted to quiet his voice and explain the seriousness of the threat that had come into their lives.
"Jessie. Please listen to what I have to say. God has established certain laws for us to live by and as Christians we have to make a stand, a moral stand, against the widespread apathy that has permeated our society. God has sent AIDS into this man's life to show the rest of us that His laws are to be followed. This disease is a wake up call. Instead of helping we should be shunning. Instead of cookies we should be telling them to leave. Instead of friendliness they should be warned of God's wrath."
It was Jessie's turn to force calmness into her voice when all she wanted to do was to take her husband by the shoulders and wake him up to the reality of God's love.
"Clete, now it's your turn to listen to me. If God chooses to punish people for their actions that is His business not ours. Jesus taught us to love. He didn't say love only the good guys. He reached out and provided love to the sick, indigent, poor, and broken souls that were all around Him. He healed lepers when no one else would go near them. He healed an adulteress when the upholders of moral law wanted her stoned. He came into the world to provide healing and love, not condemnation and hate. Maybe what these men are doing stirs God's anger. I don't know. What I do know is that Jesus doesn't want me to sit here in this apartment with a cloak of righteousness draped around my shoulders and a plate of cookies growing colder than my heart. I am going next door."
Gracious Lord: Bring your guiding Spirit into our lives. We face many situations in life where the choices we need to make are not clear. Without you to lead the way, we will falter and forget where we are going. When everything seems dark and filled with pain, instill in us the desire to build, plant, and work towards the peace and prosperity that you promise. Keep us focused on your truth at all times so that we are able endure anything that leads others to the salvation you have provided. Remind us, when hope fades, of the good things that lay in store. Help us to set aside our biases and preconceived ideas that interfere with the building of your kingdom. We know that as we focus on you and set aside the self-righteousness that adorns our hearts we will then discover all of the amazing things you do in and through us. With this discovery we sing songs of praise and thanksgiving. Thank you for your understanding love and your eternal peace that surpasses all understanding. In Christ's holy name we pray, Amen.
This article touched my heart. I have encountered situations much closer to home than a neighbor. My religious upbringing contributed to my confusion on what to do..so I prayed,"Lord, just how far am I to go in this?" His answer? "Go as far as love." Five little words that speak volumes if we are willing to hear, and be led by the Spirit of God.
Roberta - I would like to make a few comments regarding Ephesians 5. This chapter is filled to the brim, not just with issues regarding how a man should love his wife or how a wife should yield to her husband, but issues about how to live Christ-like and that we must wear the armor of God. It is a very important chapter on how to live our lives but it begins with "You are God's children whom He loves, so try to be like Him. Live a life of love just as Christ loved us and gave himself for us..." I think that whenever there is doubt all we need to do is love. The verses that inspired this story were from Luke where Jesus gave love to lepers and healed them.
I hope I am not straying from scripture when I say that love needs to dominate our relationships, especially between husband and wife. Love is not just a feel-good feeling. It leads people to Christ. If a husband needs guidance and has left Biblical teaching behind; who better to lead him back to Christ than his wife? Is she to blindly yield even when he strays? Is she to follow even if it means that she follows into a pathway of sin? I think not.
In my story, the dispute could have been between husband and wife - I don't know, but if it was, is this an example of a loving and obedient wife taking the scriptures in hand and leading her husband back to Christ? Wouldn't you want her to do this if he has forgotten our commandment to love? Thanks for your input - it really stretched the premise behind the story. Yours in Christ – Gary Sims
Gary, this raises a lot of questions. Are they brother and sister or husband and wife.
Why am I asking? Because I agree that what the woman wants to do is the Christlike act.
If they are brother and sister sharing an apartment, I can see her responding as she did. Just a Christian welcome to someone for whom Jesus died as much as for them would not create any of the problems the man is using for justification of his actions.
However, if they are husband and wife, her foremost prayer would be for God to make her an Ephesians 5 wife, and her husband an Ephesians husband. And the first should not rest on the latter happening before she becomes one. As an Ephesians 5 wife, I believe she would see that there was more to it than the surface matter of giving them a plate of cookies. Her prayer would be for God to work within the heart of her husband so that he, too, might have the peace and joy which comes to the believer from only being in God's Will. When we are, then Christ's love will flow through us like a Spring of Living Water. We will believe and say with Paul, "For me to live is Christ."
I love your closing prayer. Forgive my rambling. Hope it makes sense. Bobbi