1 Cor. 6:7 ÒIn fact, to have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather be wronged?Ó
IÕm actually getting along pretty well with my neighbors from hell these days. The fact that they plan to move helps, but I have worked at being friendly and since IÕm apparently the only one in the neighborhood that speaks to them without cursing and raising my voice, they smile and wave and consider me a friend.
But then there are my OTHER neighbors. The ones that are always quiet and friendly, but who have way too many cars. Cars that block access to my mailbox, preventing the mail carrier from delivering my mail. For almost a year now I have begged, pleaded, cajoled and negotiated to try to fix the problem. IÕve offered that they can park on my side of the street, which they do for a day or two and then itÕs back to their old ways. I canÕt depend that something I put in the box in the morning will go out, that something I need desperately will arrive, or if it does arrive, that I will be able to get it out of the box without calling them to move a car. Yes, they park so close that sometimes thereÕs not enough room to open the box. They have hit the mailbox. They have knocked it over. They have jammed it so that it is difficult to close, and IÕve come home to wet mail half hanging out of the box because of the faulty closure and the precarious angle.
ItÕs not an act of malice. Their own mailbox is in much worse shape. If they get mail more than once a week IÕd be surprised. They not only hit their own box, they hit their own cars. ItÕs a mess. The mail carrier has complained many times both to them and to me, and this last week I decided to call the post office to see what I could do.
The delivery supervisor told me that the post office can do nothing beyond leaving the notes that they have been leaving. My only recourse is to call the police. So I have been wrestling. IÕm pretty close to being that annoyed. Important stuff has been delayed, including medication and business correspondence. But boy do I hate the thought of calling the police on the neighbors for something that reasonable people should be able to work out.
As I wrestled with all of that, the above verse from 1 Corinthians went through my head. ItÕs a bit out of context to apply it to this situation, but since God often speaks to me by bringing passages of Scripture to mind, I need to take it seriously. ÒWhy not rather be wronged?Ó My first impulse is to say, ÒIÕll tell you why not rather be wrongedÉÓ but somehow I donÕt think God is impressed. Especially in this nation of Òrights,Ó itÕs hard to appreciate the Bible telling me to accept being Òwronged.Ó Combine that with the way some Christians use such passages to get people to accept actual abuse or oppressive situations and the waters are murkier still.
But I have a feeling that the low-level annoyance that I am dealing with is just the sort of thing Paul was trying to address. I donÕt think heÕs saying we should lay down and let others inflict actual harm without resistance or objection. But I do think heÕs saying that in those other things—the things that arenÕt a real threat but that wrong us in smaller ways—are not a good enough reason to shatter relationships. We should Òrather be wrongedÓ than see fellowship broken when the consequences of the ÒwrongÓ are small enough. We donÕt have to win just because weÕre right.
WeÕll see if I can keep that perspective. There have been days when IÕve wanted to run across the street with a sledgehammer and turn one of their cars into scrap metal. But now when those thoughts come to mind, I have a Bible passage to anchor me. I am, however, still praying for their kids to move out—and take their cars with them.
Grant me wisdom, God, that I might know when to take up arms and when to lay them down. Amen.
New social network! In my work as Executive Director of the Massachusetts Bible Society, IÕve created a new social network for those who relate to a broader view of biblical texts than fundamentalism represents. The design of the page will change when the new MBS website goes live, but itÕs open now for profiles to be posted and the site can be fully used. If you want to join us, sign up and post a profile at http://massbible.ning.com. For those of you already on the network, IÕve started a new discussion on hell. Join in!
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