I ran across “the” letter this week while looking for something else. It’s a letter I’ll never forget. When I opened it for the first time I was shocked. I’d never received a letter like this one. I’d seen letters from people complaining before, but never this angry and never actually signed by the sender.
It spewed with venom and anger with each line that was written. It was cold, cruel and extremely critical. It accused me of things I’d never done. She told me that I had been unkind to her mother, I hadn’t announced her father’s death at church and that I hadn’t shown any sympathy towards her mother when her father had died. All those things were very untrue.
I sat there in my office and racked my brain trying to think if the church or myself had done anything that this lady was saying we had done. I honestly couldn’t remember if her father’s death had been announced. I’m sure it had, but it had been months ago and there was really no way to remember for sure. I thought to myself, we do overlook things, maybe we had missed it. I began to look through old bulletins to see if we’d put it in the bulletin and sure enough there it was. I remember taking the church van to her father’s funeral because it was an hour or so away, and I remember that I actually had two or three others who went with me that day.
As I sat there thinking about her accusations and the anger in which she wrote them, it began to make me angry. My first thought was, “This woman only lives an hour from me, I ought to go up there and show her she’s wrong. That would teach her.” Then I thought, “No, send her a letter back like the one she sent me. I’ll give her a piece of my mind (not that I have a lot left to give).” Other thoughts went through my head as well, but none of them were very nice thoughts.
Not sure how to handle it, I called a man I highly respect that has done ministry for 50 years. I knew he’d be full of wisdom and answers. When I explained to him what had happened he told me I had three good options …
- Throw it in the trash and forget it. It’s not even worth responding back.
- Write her back explaining exactly all the details of why you’re not guilty.
- Write her back and shower her with blessings.
When he finished the third thought I said, “What? Shower her with blessings.” He told me, “Sure, it really doesn’t matter what you say, she’s too mad to believe you or care. So just be nice.” I remember thinking, “What a concept!” Where had I heard that before, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” I remember thinking, “Wow, sometimes it’s tough practicing what you preach.”
I sat down and wrote her a letter back. I started by apologizing for anything I might have done to her or her mother. I thanked her for her letter and the time she took to write it. I made no real effort to explain my side of the story, instead I only showered her with blessings and kindness. I told her I was always here if she ever wanted to talk about it. I signed it and stuck it in the mail the next day.
Months past and I forgot about the letter. One day as I was going I through the church mail there was another letter from her. I was scared to open it, but I did. This time it was written very kind. It was very apologetic. She said she had just recently talked to her mom and realized that she didn’t have all her facts straight. That the accusations she’d accused me of were not true and she was very sorry.
I did a little victory dance in my office that day. Not a “I was right and you were wrong dance,” but a celebration that I had had the chance to practice what I preach. I learned a valuable lesson that day from how I handled the letter, and I’ll always be thankful for a wise old minister’s advice.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 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. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:42-48
So, who can you shower blessings on today?