I Know What Works

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…it was quoted by a Protestant missionary, commenting to my dad on the problem of thievery…

“I used to own a junkyard in South Carolina, and thieves would come almost every month stealing parts off the cars. I’d go out and it got to the point that we even exchanged shots several times, but all I had was a rifle. Well, one day I got tired of fooling around and decided to FIX the problem. I went off and bought me an AK semi-automatic! The next time…. it got dark and I heard them down on the other side of the yard. Well, sir, I leaned forward and laid into that trigger for a coupla’ seconds…. Heard a few yells, but I figured that I’d jest check it out in the morning. I went out there in the morning, but there was nothing but a bit of blood on the ground. but do you know what? They never came back, they musta’ gone and told all their buddies what happened ‘cause I never had anymore problem with thievery after that. I know what works!”

That, in his discussion with my dad, was his reasoning for rejecting non-resistance as Jesus taught. How could Jesus mean that? It just doesn’t work.

I can understand perfectly how our Protestant friend feels. Sometimes Jesus’ teachings just don’t seem to line up with reality. I mean, really, just think for a bit. Maybe you’ve never had someone hold you at gunpoint, steal from you or even ask you for something. Maybe you don’t interact with poor, desperate people. The police force isn’t corrupt and all you have to do is call 911. Does it work to “not resist” when there’s nobody but you that will do justice to save your skin? Does it work to “turn the other cheek” just to be smacked twice as hard? Does it work to “give your cloak also when they ask for your tunic” if the cloak is the last thing you have? Does it work to “feed your enemy” if that will only spur him on to come back for more later on?

If we had only our human perspective to rely on, the answer to all the former is, obviously, no. Absolute nonsense. but Jesus, in teaching us those truths, was a human looking at life as God does—from an eternal perspective. When you take that into account, then what Jesus taught starts to take on meaning.

As I sit here and type I am still reviewing the happenings of the past twenty-four hours. I found out this morning of a neighbor that was killed during the night. He was caught stealing a cow from another community and apparently the owner caught up with him. All it took was one shot to mete out justice, get his cow back, and warn any future thieves of the consequences of stealing. The thief was hauled out to the police station (dead, of course) and unceremoniously sent back wrapped up in plastic to be buried today without a decent burial. People like that don’t deserve anything more. The general feeling of most of the people that I talked to was “good riddance”. I was tempted to feel the same way. Some of the rest of us have cows that could get stolen and unless these thieves don’t learn their lesson, why….

What would have been my response if that man would have stolen my cow? I would not have run after him with a shotgun. He would have probably gotten away with my cow, and many people would be on edge… everyone would be thinking, “Whose cow is going next? We’ve got to stop these thieves!” I can’t exactly tell you what all I would have done, but one thing I hope I would have done is pray for whoever stole my cow. Would that have made us feel less vulnerable? Maybe. Would it have brought my cow back immediately? Unlikely. Would it have produced any immediate, tangible results? Probably not.

That is why so many people discard Jesus’ teachings. “It just doesn’t work.” So we revert to “what works”.

But really, doesn’t Jesus’ way work? No, I don’t mean in getting your stuff back and meting out justice at the moment (materially speaking it doesn’t seem to work). However, let’s take my dead neighbor for an example. If he would have stolen my cow and I would have been able to respond in love to whoever would have done it, God still would have brought justice sooner or later “Justice is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.” It might not have been in my timing or in my way, but God would have taken care of it. He wouldn’t be God if he didn’t. In the meantime, He probably would have given me an opportunity to show love to the thief, albeit my not knowing it. In God’s eyes, it would have been a lot better to be able to forgive that thief and give him salvation than have to kill him in his sin, thus sending him to eternal perdition. Jesus exemplified this so beautifully when he told that thief on the other cross, “This day thou shalt be with me in paradise.” All that thief deserved was damnation, but Jesus gave him eternal life.

God’s ways do work. He does mete out justice even though we may not find out how. And if it seems that things aren’t happening as they should, well, just wait a little. God always is working on an even more beautiful picture. He might even be able to do something even more awesome than justice….He might be able to forgive another unworthy sinner.

As far as we are concerned, “doves among serpents” and “lambs among wolves”, let us learn to trust in God, not our shotgun. Maybe that is why He allows “the spoiling of our goods” in the first place. Isn’t our salvation more important than our things? Maybe God saw our losing out materially, as an integral spiritual step in our journey. “Who can know the mind of God?” We don’t know His mind, but we do know His heart. It is brimming over with love for this lost human race.

Thankfully we don’t have to resolve all the daily issues by ourselves. All we have to do is take literally and practice what Jesus taught. Don’t we have the Creator of the universe on our side?

Too many times we start going down the road our Baptist friend is on. “That just doesn’t make sense—that can’t be!” When facing a hard teaching, we immediately default to our own common sense. How tragic! We have to believe that what Jesus taught is the only way to find complete satisfaction in our lives. Period.

So, really, does it work to repay evil with good? Yes. Does it make sense? No. (Does it have to?) Does it work to invest our time and resources into someone needing a second chance? Does it work to treat a robber kindly? Does it work to give a needy person something? Does it work to not press charges? Does it work to forgive someone who doesn’t seem to even want forgiveness? Does it work to invest time in a drug addict’s life? (They might use your friendship to take advantage of you later on. I’ve seen it happen several times and also experienced it.)

Does it work?

Do we even have to ask that question? Why can’t we take Jesus for what He said and just believe that what He says is best? Isn’t that what being a Christian is all about? Jesus asks us to step out a little farther in faith.

I hope that this has been as big of a blessing to you as it has been to me. Just thinking this out and writing it down has renewed my resolve to not revert to common sense, but hang on to what Jesus taught. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Let’s make Him our way, rely on Him as our truth, and we will inherit eternal life.

~Sigquatepeque, Comayagua, Honduras
October 2009