We were away for most of January this year having a break. During the last week of January, we spent Monday to Friday at a Fly Fishing and Wild Life Resort on the other side of Carolina. It is a town in the Mpumalanga Province and lies in the grass and wetlands region at 1700 meters above sea level. It is a mixed farming and small-scale coal- and precious-stone-mining community. It is 2½ hours travel from Pretoria. We left the resort on Friday, 31 January at just after 10am and travelled back to Pretoria, stopping to have lunch at Alzu Petroport on the N4 towards Pretoria. Although retired, this was the last day of our “holiday break” and so we took a slow drive home, arriving around 4pm the afternoon. At 4.50pm, I received a WhatsApp message from a neighbor … I have edited it for the sake of space.
I am going straight to the point. I think you should act your age … No rather act according to your calling, because you already acted as a pain in the … senior citizen … and then now for the second time the palm tree leaves miraculously find their way to my driveway after 10pm. If you want to make a fight out of this thing … I’m prepared for the battle! I suggest you ask your gardener to come and fetch the palm tree leaves that miraculously found their way to my drive way. If you are prepared to remove it or have it removed from the tree at night time, you can throw it away yourself, or me and you are going to play tennis with them …
I called him and arranged to meet him at his gate to attempt to understand what this was all about. He accused me of throwing a palm tree branch that fell from his tree into my garden, into his driveway the previous night after 10pm (Thursday 30 January). Although I tried to explain that we were a 2½ hour drive away and did not do it, he would not accept it and stormed away using vulgarity. I was so shocked. It affected me emotionally … and on top of it, how could I be in two places at one time? That is miraculous! Well, needless to say, there is no relationship between us. Recently, I tried to engage him as his tree sheds leaves during autumn and winter. This did not achieve the best results. Although I have been praying for him and his family, over the past two weeks I have been asking God for an opportunity to talk to him.
Well, today I spend the day gardening. Around midday, whist working on our pavement, he arrived back home. I walked over to his vehicle and signaled I would like to talk to him. He parked his car, closed the garage and then closed the gate. I greeted him and said, “I want to be friendly and I want to be a good neighbor. What is it that has upset you about me so that I can make it right?”
He said, “the palm tree branch” … looking towards the Palm Tree.
I said, “I was not here. I was 2½ hours away.”
He responded, “I don’t have time for chit chat” and walked away.
When I talked though the January happening with my opposite neighbour on 1st February, he said there was a terrible storm on Thursday night, 30 January. This is the cause of the branch falling … and falling into his driveway. To make matters worse, I am retired as an ordained pastor and retired as a reserve military Chaplain (I have a Defense Force Commission). I was taught that an officer is a gentleman … he is a captain in the police force.
How does one deal with such an environment? It is important for neighbours to be friendly and neighbourly. One never knows when you might need each other. On the spiritual side, before God … He knows all things, for He is omniscient:
Jer 17:10 I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.
It is encouraging that God is able to search the heart and examine the mind. Before God I stand or fall. Surely I would not have been in Gospel ministry for more than 40 years (34 of which I was ordained for) if I am a liar and deceiver. But what is true for me is true for others as well! God searches their hearts too. At the same time, it is difficult to grasp whether people are Christian or not. They might be the same colour as you and they might live in the same suburb as you … but unless you see them going to church or hear them talking about the Lord and avoiding vulgarity, false accusations and are prepared to make peace … you find you make your mind up in a certain way. Biblically, I have an enemy! Jesus says:
Mt 5:43 You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?
You see, although one is hurt and affected by the behaviour I described above … Christians do not return the same behaviour. Jesus requires we love our enemies, and loving them means praying for them. This might not be easy, but the best way to pray for your enemies is to understand “hell” the way Jesus explains it. He speaks of hell as “burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”; “tormented with burning sulfur”; “thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur”; “And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever”; “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur.” No one will ever want even his or her worst enemy to be damned in hell for eternity! This is our motive to pray for their souls lovingly before the Throne of Grace and Mercy … bearing no malice, anger, revenge or seeking ill fortune to come their way … because hell is forever!
Dear God, because You have enemies, I am able to handle my enemies when they are, without knowing it, enemies of the Gospel. Grant me much patience and mercy to labour before Your holiness on their behalf … seeking their salvation and their good with honest motives … for Jesus’ sake. Amen.