During my regular run last Friday, I was harassed. At 8:10 AM, in one of the most well-to-do neighborhoods in my city. I listen to music via a Bluetooth headset in only one ear while running, so the words, “Hi, baby,” fell crisply on my open ear from the window of the passing truck. I gave no notice, not even a twitch of my head in the harasser’s direction. But inwardly, after an instant of shock, rage coursed through me.
This was a rude invasion of my morning meditation, and at a deeper level an affront to my personhood. I began to assign all the unflattering attributes I could think of, to the owner of the voice that had disturbed my peace. Then the rage started to spread to broader groups, as I wondered how many people would ask me what I was wearing if I tried to tell this story, and I reflected on what little difference the #metoo movement has made. I wasn’t running well anymore, so distracted was I by my fury.
After a couple of minutes, I thought simply, “I will not drink the poison of hate.” And I began to pray—first for redemption of my own thoughts and feelings, and then for the person who had set them churning. By the Spirit’s enabling, it occurred to me that this harasser was longing for intimacy and significance, as we’re all hardwired to do. But somewhere along the way, he’d been sold a lie that the closest he could get would be a returned glance or a smile from a stranger on the street. This thought didn’t excuse his sin, but it restored his humanity in my mind, and made it hard to hate him. I was grieved to think of the door standing wide open to intimacy with God, and a place in the kingdom, if only he knew that he could walk through it. I resolved to leave vengeance to the Lord, and finished my last mile with quick, even steps.
I’ve shared this story to offer you a first aid kit against hate. When rage is boiling over inside of you and turning into hate, (1) recognize that it is poison, (2) ask the Lord to help you see the humanity of the offender and remember that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood,” (Ephesians 6:12), and (3) trust that “all sin will be avenged, whether in the torment of hell or in the wounds of Christ” (author unknown). Then keep running your race.