There is a fellow in our church named Adam.
The sad thing about Adam is that he is radioactive. I'm not sure how this happened, but he has some sort of rare condition in which his body radiates a type of Gamma Ray radiation.
You know the kind -- the type of Gamma Rays that turned David Bruce Banner into the raging Hulk.
Adam comes near me and I feel the radiation getting to me.
My blood begins to boil.
My blood pressure increases.
My skin turns green.
My body expands, ripping apart my all of my clothing -- well, not quite. For some strange reason my shirt is ripped, by shoes are ripped, my socks pop off, but my pants stay intact.
OK -- maybe it is not that bad, but there is something about Adam.
He just gets to me.
"Love your neighbor," Jesus said, echoing the teachings that God has given since the dawn of time.
I have no problem with that until I see Adam coming.
Adam. Elder. Member of the Session, which is the governing body of the church.
Adam, who shut down the food pantry in the church, convinced the Session to cut mission budget, led the move to freeze salaries for a year, and drove the last two secretaries I had nuts. Each eventually resigned. I often expect my current secretary to resign.
Adam, who lies to people, manipulates people and has such a sweet smile as he stabs people in the back.
Adam is tough to love.
Adam! I despise him. I detest him. I am alergic to him -- he actually causes my blood pressure to go up (record so far was 205/105 -- calling for me to take a day or two off).
I see him headed down the sidewalk to the office, and I walk out the door and head to the nursing home to visit Miss Beth.
I see him in the sanctuary and I find myself turning to Claire for a chat with her in the far pew.
I'm not the only one. I notice that when David organizes a group trip to the Marlins, there never seems to be a ticket left for Adam. When Evelyn is asking for volunteers for the Easter play, she avoids Adam. Elders don't stand up against him in Session meetings because he is so very toxic -- as I say, he has that Gamma Ray thing.
I decided a long time ago that Christian love is not an emotion. It is not something you possess for someone.
Christian love is a verb -- it is action. It is a way of respecting and treating someone.
I can't feel love for Adam -- I'm trying my best not to feel hate for him.
But I can love Adam in the way I deal with him. I can treat him like a human being and show him respect.
So I look out the window and see him coming, should I stay and chat with him when he arrives in my office?
I see him in the Sanctuary, should I turn to greet him?
Should I make sure he gets a ticket to the game with the rest of the church group? I could make sure he'll get the aisle seat and I'll sit next to him.
No -- no I can't do that. He is a vampire who bits into my soul and sucks the life right out of me. He is toxic -- after all, he has that Gamma Ray thing. Being around him too much is bad for me -- I can't survive.
He is abusive and mean and a trouble making bully.
I think the solution is to turn into the Hulk. I could pick him up and hurl him across the room, then bang a hole in the wall and run away from it all.
What would Jesus do?
Actually, I think he would turn into the Hulk.
Remember the time Jesus walked into the Temple and saw the merchants making a buck on God? Jesus didn't turn green. His muscles didn't grow so his robe was ripped off his body. BUT he did pick up a few tables and turn them over. He made a whip and drove the merchants out. (Matthew 21:12-17)
Dr. Banner would understand.
Some behavior is unacceptable.
Some of it demands that we say "No!"
A friend of mine has a son who was about 10 years old when the family was visiting a church. Strange thing this ministry -- the whole family goes on the job interview. The search committee was showing my friend around the church and the chair of the search committee son, age 5, was picking on the prospective minister's son, age 10. The ten year old took it in stride and with great patience. However, when the 5 year old son of the search committee chair picked up a rock and hit the minister's son in the head, the preacher's kid snapped back, "Would you please stop acting like an ass hole."
My friend didn't get the job, but then the 5 year old did begin to behave.
So I talked to Adam the other day and told him to stop acting like an ass hole.
I did it in a very pastoral way, however, and no reference to body parts was included in the conversation.
It didn't help.
But then, I don't think Jesus was very effective in turning the tables over in the temple. Want evidence? Buy a bobble headed Jesus statue online.
But he still turned over the tables, because it was the right thing to do.
And so I told Adam to treat the staff, especially my secretary, with respect. It seemed to be a good starting point.
It didn't help.
So what now?
Turn green and go on a rampage?
No -- I think I will continue to love Adam and treat him with respect, but avoid him as much as practical. I won't run from him, but since he seems to radiate something toxic -- you know, that Gamma Ray thing -- I will limit my exposure to him.
It seems to be what Jesus would do.Matthew 10:14
talked about dealing with a difficult person or community -- just dust your feet off and move on to the next person.
I can't change Adam -- but I won't let him change me either.
Green skin and tattered shirts would never look good on me.