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An arsonist hits my neighborhood

9:02 a.m., EST.Three hours ago, a neighbor’s home was set on fire and changed the course of my morning. It gave me an unwelcome opportunity to exercise grace. As I made my way past the fire engines and the firemen with all their hoses crisscrossing the lawn, there was my neighbor. I’d never me…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

9:02 a.m., EST.

Three hours ago, a neighbor’s home was set on fire and changed the course of my morning. It gave me an unwelcome opportunity to exercise grace.

As I made my way past the fire engines and the firemen with all their hoses crisscrossing the lawn, there was my neighbor. I’d never met him before.

What I didn’t know is that he’s the same guy I was really ticked at last week. Karen and I were talking about Leah. Recently she’s been admitted to a school for special needs children in the area.

Karen said, “What a difference between this experience and the last school. The teacher didn’t want to be bothered with Leah’s situation and the principal of that school wouldn’t do anything to help me. I was so frustrated. It was an awful experience. After that, I gave up on the public school system.”

Somehow, I hadn’t realized just how traumatic that whole experience had been for her. Hearing about it again made me want to track down that principal and give him a piece of my mind. But, he’d retired and I didn’t know how exactly to do it, so I let it go.

This morning when I walked over to the smoldering remains of my neighbor’s home and began talking to its owner, I discovered that he was the very principal who, when we were most vulnerable and needed help, did nothing. And now, in one of those perplexing twists of fate, he was in the one who needed help. An arsonist had set fire to his place and he didn’t have any insurance to rebuild.

Not only could I not give him a piece of my mind, but God was asking me to give him the very grace that I had wanted from him.

I knew what I had to do. So I said, “Look, I run a local ministry and some of us there would be happy to help you. And beyond that, I’d like to pray for you, what can I be praying for you about?”

Having to do stuff like that is one of the things that bothers me the most about our faith. Jesus requires me to offer grace instead of a piece of my mind. Maybe you like squelching your desires for retribution, but it bothers me that I don’t get the pleasure of sharing my pain with my neighbor. Instead, I have to share his. The Muslim faith has a much more satisfying response to situations like this. Being a follower of Jesus stinks, sometimes.

* * * * *

For anybody who’s wondering, tomorrow I’ll get back to my series on “Lessons from my worst short-term mission project ever.” Read yesterday’s lesson on picking the wrong leaders here.

Comments (7)

  • I love your honesty and your heart… and your yieldedness… funny how no matter how long we follow Him, we never “arrive” this side of heaven… there’s always lessons to be learned… and amazing how He can use even the hard things to a good end… Joseph’s slavery being a case in point… how without the skills he acquired in prison he wouldn’t have been prepared for his position to save the world from starving… and so, like here, the trials you went through with Leah have in the end put you in a unique position to exhibit Christ to someone who needs Him…

    praying for you always…

  • thanks, Vickie. I wish it were easier. It’s one of the hardest things in my life.

    Hey – I’ll see Clinton in HK in a few days – I know he’s got to be so eager to get home! you and your family have been such a wonderful support to him this year. I feel like you’ve gone on the trip with him.

  • Not many things are as transforming to our hearts as praying or helping for a perceived “enemy”…thank you for sharing.

    Thank you for your transparency in saying, “Being a follower of Jesus stinks, sometimes.” I believe being real is a huge testimony and will counteract the damage done by religious fakeness!

  • Love the openness and honesty here Seth. I’ll pray that this turns into a blessing for you… this side of heaven 🙂

  • I love this blog. Thanks for sharing and for being there for him. Something inside me began stirring after I read this. I’m not sure what it is.

  • how strange, the way things go sometimes. i’m glad that things are working out with leah this timehow many years later?! revisiting unresolved tensions…hmph.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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