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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Angry With The Muslim World

I used to work in the Banking industry. For a while I worked in the bad bank, though I’m sure you never knew a bad bank existed. The good bank is the one you see every day; smiling, nice, polite, taking in deposits and lending them out. The bad bank is different. This is the bank that works to get the loan money back. In the bad bank no one is nice to customers, or smiling, or polite. No one wants to visit the bad bank, and very few want to work there. In the bad bank we had a special type of correspondence. We called it the ‘Drop Dead’ letter. When we received a proposal to repay a loan - usually substantially less than what was owed - we would send a terse, legally correct reply. If the customer thought about what this formalized document really meant, he/she would quickly realize they were being told to drop dead. Thus the name.

Now when I was a younger lad telling someone to drop dead was almost a daily occurrence. That or some other clever expletive, was just part of the normal way my friends and I communicated. But now that I am a little older and slightly wiser I wish to find a better way to communicate. What I really want to do is to learn how to tell someone that I disagree with him/her, or that I am angry with them, and do it in a way that is loving and kind. I’d like deal with my anger without delivering to someone a drop dead letter.

However, since 9/11 I have been itching to tell the entire Muslim world to drop dead. First came the attacks from Muslim terrorists. Then I learned about the abuse of Christians in Arab countries. Christian communities that have existed for two thousand years are being driven out of Egypt, Iraq and Iran. Other Arab countries throw Christians in jail for ridiculous reasons. Asia Bibi has been rotting in a Pakistani prison for two years after being convicted of blasphemy against Islam. And here I thought blasphemy disappeared with Dark Ages. And then I read about the European cartoonist who dared to draw the Prophet Mohammed causing riots to break out all over the world and hundreds to end up injured or dead (the Jyllands-Posten cartoon controversy). Innocents dying because of a cartoon? This really gets me angry, but not as angry as I feel whenever I look upon the NYC skyline. There should be two towers in lower Manhattan. They’ve been there as long as I remember. Now they are gone, and thousands are dead and thousands more are injured for life. I know it’s been ten years, but I’m still really ticked off.

Jesus says to love our enemies and forgive those who sin against us over and over again. Sounds good, but does this apply all of the time? I prefer the rabbinic teaching from the time period. One is required to forgive a trespasser three times. If the person sinned against you a fourth time, that’s it, time to lower the boom. Seeing that the Arab world has many long standing complaints against the Western world and vice versa, let’s just forget the forgiveness stuff. They’re mad at us, we’re mad at them, so let’s just get it on.

The problem comes in when we apply this strict behavioral standard to ourselves. I have sinned against my wife much more than the allowable three. And so if my wife applied the three strikes and you’re out standard to me, she would be long gone. Yet, she has forgiven me over and over again. The same goes with my relationship with God. I swung three times and struck out long ago, and yet Jesus tells me I’m still up at bat. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy” Matthew 5:7. I keep receiving mercy over and over, but I have to have mercy in my own heart. That’s a problem when you’re so mad you want to spit.

And so the challenge is on to learn to disagree and forgive. Even to forgive those I want to see drop dead. The angry side of me demands justice. And I know that God is a God of justice. And I also know that a day of judgment awaits all of us. But the merciful side of me reminds me that I too will face a day of judgment. And on that day I will want to be judged mercifully. I will hope to be forgiven “seventy times seven”. Can I do the same with murderous Islamic terrorists? It’s asking a lot. But Jesus said, “Be perfect therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect”. So I guess I can try.


Pastor Bill Whitehead

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