I have breakfast every Saturday morning with a group of men. All of us have attended the Walk to Emmaus over the past few years and we use this time to encourage and pray for each other. We have a regular list of questions we work through to spur on conversation.
“When did you feel closest to Christ?”
“When did you have the opportunity to be the Church for someone?”
“When was your faith tested by failure?”
Ouch! That’s always a tough one. Who likes to admit where they blew it? It’s always a humbling moment in our time together.
My failure this week had a lot to do with my reaction to the Caylee Anthony verdict. I have to admit to being angry, disgusted and frustrated. Oh, but I’m not talking about the verdict. I’m talking about the reactions to the verdict.
I was a little shocked by comments that I read. I suppose it’s one thing to have an opinion about the verdict itself. It’s another matter entirely to have an opinion about any of the people involved because, frankly, we just don’t know anything.
Okay, maybe we know a few things; at least what the news chose to show us. Beyond that, there really isn’t anything else we know. Having sat in on a couple of trials I can tell you that even if you’re in the courtroom you don’t hear everything there is to know. I’m sure that even if I had sat down and watched everything broadcast on television (which I didn’t) I would know even less.
As far as Caylee Anthony is concerned, I don’t have an opinion about her one way or the other because I don’t know her. What I do know about her is that, like all of us, she is loved by a God who wants to be in relationship with her as He does with all of us. He sees beyond all the media hype and the comments. He sees beyond what she may or may not have done. He sees her just as He sees each of us who, if we’re really honest, are all in the same boat anyway.
Maybe that’s what makes us angry. When we look at her, we see a little bit of ourselves. We think about the struggles we have had as a result of our own stumbles and the thought of someone “getting away with murder” just doesn’t seem fair.
This makes me think of two stories from the life of Jesus.
The first is the woman who was about to be stoned to death for being caught in adultery. She had been caught in the act and her accusers were ready to mete out the punishment that was appropriate for that day. Jesus doesn’t excuse what she did. In fact, He’s prepared to let them carry out their stoning on one condition: that whoever lifts one stone against the lady must be free and clear from any sin. One by one they drop their stones and walk away. Jesus then looks at the lady and says, “Go and sin no more.” He doesn’t even address whether or not she’s sorry for what she did. Maybe He knows that’s because repentance was between her and God alone.
The second story I’m reminded of is the story Jesus told his followers. It’s the story of the Prodigal Son. It’s a great story about this son who goes to his dad and demands his inheritance so he can go party. In short order the son loses everything and hits rock bottom. He finally decides that being a servant to his dad would be better than living in abject poverty, so he makes his way back home. The father is so excited to get his son back that he welcomes him with open arms and throws him a party and restores the son to his previous state in the family.
For years I overlooked something about the father’s reaction to the son.
“And while [the son] was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.” Luke 15.20 (NLT)
Did you catch it? While the son was still “a long way off” the father was already filled with compassion. For all dad knew his son was coming back to ask for more money. But, the father didn’t care. He was just happy to see his boy and was ready to forgive him.
I’m not sure, but so much of what I’ve read in reaction to the verdict doesn’t seem to line up with these stories. I know we’re angry that a little girl is dead and her killer is out there somewhere. But, the fact remains that none of us know with any kind of certainty who that person is.
All I know is that I have two things Jesus told me to do if I want to live out the requirements of the “law and the prophets.” Jesus promised that if I focus on loving God and loving people that I would get it right. Or, as my friend Jon says, “Love ’em all and let God sort ’em out.”
I may not know a lot, but I do know that.