George A. Bowers Sr. : Demolishing the powder yearning to spark
This past Wednesday morning, an angry man ruthlessly slaughtered television reporter Alison Parker and her cameraman, Adam Ward. Such horrendous murders committed in broad daylight and carried out on live television should be a wake-up call to our society of just how sick we are. Not mentally, although that is true too, but spiritually. It was spiritual sickness that caused this man to do what he did.
In his rambling fax, this bitter man pointed to various incidents in which he felt wronged by others. He had been fired from a job and felt persecuted and abused because of his skin color and sexual practices. He apparently collected grievances as one collects coins, stamps, or antiques.
Of course the immediate outcry is against guns and I understand this sentiment, though I disagree. While there may be various ways to help prevent such incidents in the future, the most obvious remains unmentioned and untried. This was a spiritual issue. He allowed unresolved hatred and bitterness to build up in his soul like powder in a keg. This unforgiveness and pride so poisoned him that he hurt many others very badly, including himself.
Each of us has ample opportunity to collect grievances. Because we live with other imperfect humans, we all can easily accumulate quite a collection of personal offenses. That name on the bus, that insult by a sibling, that laugh in the locker room, that robbery, that abuse, that whatever. Some lists are longer than others to be sure, and some items are much more hurtful than others, but every human being has abundant opportunity to collect and cherish such pain if we so choose. And if we do, it is indeed powder yearning for a spark.
So how can we prevent such explosions? How can we keep from going off on those we love or even those we hate? Jesus actually had a good bit to say about this. He commanded his followers to pray for those who did them wrong. To return good for evil and love for hate. He directed us to bless those who curse us and to forgive others even as we have been forgiven by our heavenly father. As we realize that we have hurt others just as badly, and as we receive God’s forgiveness, we can then offer compassion and mercy to those who hurt us. Jesus never said that any of this would be easy or fun. But since he made us, he knows what is necessary to defuse our powder, to give us peace, and then to provide that peace to others.
Jesus was hurt and abused more than anyone else. Of all beings, he had the longest list of offenses done to him. And yet he even forgave those who nailed him to the cross. The only one who never hurt another was hurt the worst and yet returned good. It is a revolutionary idea. It is life changing, heart changing, and world changing if we choose to implement it.
But we cannot give what we do not have. Until we first ask God to forgive us of our offenses, we do not have a deep enough well of love and forgiveness from which to draw. Human attempts to do so will dry up during particularly hard times, but those who trust in Jesus have living water that bubbles up to eternal life. If you’ve never asked God to forgive you of your wrongs and offenses, do that now. Tell him that you believe Jesus is his son and that you believe he died on the cross for you and ask him to make you his child. Seek a fellowship of believers in a church where you can practice the teachings of Jesus even as you experience them from others. Give your hurts and grievances over to the only one who can carry them and who has promised one day to make all wrongs right. We don’t have to understand it all and indeed we can’t, but when we keep short accounts and turn our grievances into forgiveness, we can begin to experience true peace and our powder is not just defused but demolished. Let’s work at doing that today.
In Jesus, George.
George Bowers Sr. is the pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren in Woodstock and the author of four books, including his latest book of poetry, “Wit and Wisdom of the Woods.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.