To My Offender
We’re happy to introduce you today to Brandon Andress. He is the author of AND THEN THE END WILL COME! and UNEARTHED: How Discovering the Kingdom of God Will Transform the Church and Change the World. He has served as an elder and teaching pastor at The Living Room Church in Columbus, Indiana. Brandon writes at brandonandress.com and his work has been featured by Relevant Magazine, Faith Village, and Blessed Earth among others. Here’s a piece he submitted to us.
My car was broken into last week.
I don’t know if you have ever had anything stolen from you… but man it stinks. Debit card. Credit cards. Driver’s license. Cash. Cell Phone. iPad. All taken. Ugh.
Sure there was the sinking and dreadful feeling of being violated… but to be honest I was more upset at myself for making the mistake of falling asleep on the couch and leaving one of my windows cracked about three inches.
I sat on the couch that entire Saturday trying to make sense of what had happened. I had never had anything stolen from me in my life, nor had I ever had a greater offense against me.
For that I am incredibly grateful.
While so many people have been violated in so many different ways, I am very fortunate that this is the worst offense to which I have been subjected. Believe me… I don’t take that blessing for granted. Not for a second.
But it is in situations like this when I believe that our initial gut reaction to being violated (no matter the circumstance) is to immediately direct our anger and hostility toward the person (or people) who have caused the violation. And the temptation is to label and stereotype the person (or people) rather than to see them rightly as children of God who have become sadly disillusioned and who are in desperate need of forgiveness and the heart-transforming love of Christ.
One may certainly believe that it is easier (and may make one feel better) to say about the offender in anger:
He’s probably some junkie.
He’s probably trash.
He probably came from a good-for-nothing family.
He’s probably a lazy low-life.
He’s probably been a deadbeat his entire life.
But I would argue that… if even for a second… any one of us really truly believes that every single person in this world is a beautiful and valuable child of God (even and especially those who victimize and harm us)… we ought to see our offenders differently. And then consequently… we ought to treat our offenders differently.
For those of us who follow the way of Jesus Christ…
For those of us who have been called on to be the embodiment and extenders of peace, mercy, grace, forgiveness, and self-sacrificial love…
For those of us who bear witness to the value and inherent worth of every single human being…
And for those of us whose eyes have been opened by the Spirit of God to see reality anew- the possibility of individuals and relationships being mended and springing with life, opportunity, and hope…
We recognize that our battle is not against human beings… but rather against adversarial forces that work in and through human beings to create war, division, bitterness, animosity, retaliation, and hatred.
We recognize that these same adversarial forces are at work to isolate, label, minimize, tear apart, devalue, and dehumanize human beings with the ultimate goal of complete hopelessness and destruction.
And we will not take part in continuing the endless cycle of death and destruction. Not with what we think. Not with what we say. Not with what we do.
Instead we will bring light into the darkness. We will bless those who curse us.
We will retaliate only with grace and peace and forgiveness and love when offended or assaulted.
And we will give even the shirts off of our backs to those who have already taken what we have.
Because the way of Christ and his kingdom is the most humanizing reality this world has ever experienced. It is this way that treats others as they were created to be treated- as fully human, fully and unconditionally loved by God… with unsurpassing worth, value, and dignity.
And to my offender… that is precisely what I want you to experience. And that is significantly different than what you made me experience on Saturday morning.
But to that end… and in response to your offense brother… I forgive you.
You are so much more than what you have believed or what others have told you about yourself.
You are not a degenerate.
You are not trash or garbage.
You are not a loser.
You are a valuable, worthy son of God.
There is no depth to which God’s mercy does not reach.
There is no length to which God’s love is not willing to pursue.
And there is no single person that God would ever turn away who returns with a humble and contrite heart.
That includes you.
For the Father always welcomes home the prodigal son with open arms and a celebration.
The truth is that every single prodigal has a choice as to how he will respond to his particular situation.
Will you continue to run away and squander your life? Or, will you come back to the open arms of the Father and take part in the celebration?
I am praying for the latter.
That you may begin to see clearly.
That that your heart would be wholly changed and transformed.
And that God would direct your path to righteousness so that we might celebrate your return home together.