“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6, NIV 2011).
We have a small house on a nearby lake that we use for a retreat and often offer to ministers and ministries to use. Last week, Ken, our area director for CMDA, was going to take his family there for a weekend. I had been having electrical problems with the boat and had asked our local boat repair expert, Dannie, to check it out and have it ready for Ken. On the Friday before, we had been given full assurances it would be so. Starting Thursday I began calling to check—no answer, for two straight days. I was frustrated and angry, assuming Dannie was ignoring my calls out of laziness and procrastination. Friday, when Ken arrived, the boat was not working. Ken called me and told me the shop was closed. A sign on the door left a phone number. Dannie’s sister answered the phone number and told me that Dannie’s son, recently graduated from high school, had been crushed between two tractors at his work place and was in intensive care with a torn aorta.
We rarely know the motives of individuals who frustrate or harm us, but we can easily become angry because we assume we do. Assuming motive is like a poking an open sore. We can often live with a painful action far more easily than with the reason we assume the action was committed.
It often follows that we learn the cause of the action and are embarrassed by the anger we had nurtured. Danny needed my prayer for his son, not my anger over a boat.
Of course, it goes much beyond this. Our ultimate approach to motive should be the approach of the cross. The Pharisees’ motive in killing Jesus was obvious; they were clear in their hatred for Jesus and the disruption He was causing to their religious order. Even so, Jesus from the cross asked, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34a, ESV). With these words, Jesus tells us that even the most evil motives eventually develop from a lack of understanding the heart of God. With this request to His Father, followed by His death, Jesus took all motives and redeemed them. This is grace. To whom do I need to offer it?
Let me never assume I know the motives behind people who hurt me. And, whatever the motive, let me forgive.