My family and I live in a nice, quiet suburban town about 35 miles north of Chicago. For the most part, our neighbors are pleasant, friendly people; and we have had no complaints since moving in over eight years ago. But every now and then, you seem to run into people who make you wonder if they weren’t hugged enough as children.
We have an aging beagle at home named Mario, and in order to keep him from having accidents inside the home, we walk him twice a day (morning and evening). Last night, my wife was walking Mario when he stopped to take care of some business on a neighbor’s lawn. This isn’t unusual; the expectation is that you clean up after your dog when he’s done — common courtesy.
This ‘neighbor’ wasn’t too pleased that our dog decided to use his lawn as his toilet, and he let my wife know — in no uncertain terms — that he wanted her and our dog off his property. She apologized to this individual and explained that she was always very careful to clean up after Mario. This individual, again, expressed his extreme displeasure, closing with the classic “Get the f*** off my lawn!”
When my wife relayed this information to me, several thoughts went through my head. First was going over to this neighbor’s house and telling him “Shut the f*** up!” and “If you ever speak to my wife in that way again, I’ll kick your a**!” My second thought was to take my 7-iron and practice approach shots on his lawn, followed by taking my 7-iron to this man’s knee if he ever spoke to my wife in that manner again.
I realize that these are terribly un-Christian thoughts, and this caused me to take a step back and consider the following:
- Christians, though saved from the penalty of sin, are not free from the presence of sin. Sanctification is the process by which the Holy Spirit works in our lives to conform us into the image of Jesus. My sanctification has quite a ways to go before I “conform to the image of Jesus.”
- The doctrine of Total Depravity is alive and well. This individual, assuming he wasn’t a Christian, gives further evidence that the human heart is “desperately sick.” What logical reason is there to cuss out a woman you don’t know simply because her dog is taking a crap on your grass? It’s grass for crying out loud! I can sympathize with anyone who works hard to maintain a nice lawn, but there is simply no call for this behavior! None!
- Given the two points above, my reaction — had I carried through on any of my initial intentions — would have done nothing to solve the problem. Not only would they have not solved anything, they would serve to make matters worse! It’s one thing for an unbeliever to act in an unbelieving manner, quite another thing for a Christian to do so.
The bible commands the people of God to “love thy neighbor” (cf. Leviticus 19:18). Most people find this easy when your neighbor is lovable. Most of my neighbors are nice, friendly people with whom I have no complaints. However, what if your neighbor isn’t lovable? The bible goes a step further: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). This is significantly more difficult to achieve. I have heard it said that it is nearly impossible to harbor animosity toward someone for whom you are praying.
In this little drama, I am thankful for two things: One, that this guy was more ‘bark than bite.’ My wife came home and said “Some people can be real jerks!” This says to me that she was more irritated than afraid. I am thankful that this ‘neighbor’ wasn’t threatening. Two, that is was my wife instead of me that experienced this. There is no telling what I would have said or done has this guy spoke this way toward me. I know my temper and I almost certainly would have responded in kind. There are several examples like this where my wife experiences something that had I been in her shoes, I would have reacted much differently. God knows how to protect his own; especially from themselves!