“….accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so also you must forgive” (Colossians 3:13).
For reasons I never fully understood the old gentleman carried around a load of bitterness, much of it directed toward me his pastor. In a business conference when we were discussing calling a young man as our youth director, the old man stood and poured out venom on the proceedings. He was clearly angry about something, all out of proportion to what we were discussing.
“I have no idea what it is between you and him,” said a man in his Sunday School class. “Actually,” he continued, “he’s a good teacher. I like him.”
I knew a little of what had happened. A year earlier, the gentleman was convinced that I had not greeted him and his wife at a church function. “You talked to everyone there except us.” I was completely unaware of this and apologized, then drove across the city to his home and apologized to his wife. A sweet lady, she said it was nothing, that her husband was just being himself.
The man never turned it loose. He now had a license to be angry at his preacher.
It all came to a head when he took exception to a sermon I’d preached, one in which I had taken off the kid gloves and engaged in a little bare-knuckled sparring regarding a longstanding problem in the church. He wrote a long critical letter and delivered it by the office on Monday morning. The letter ended, “I do not love you.”
I answered his letter. I pointed out he would be surprised how many members had thanked me for the sermon and said it was long overdue. I ended, “I’m sorry you do not love me, but I love you and I’m praying for you.”
Many people we have to love by faith and our feelings have nothing to do with it.
That night, after I told her about the letter, my wife Margaret made the old gentleman a cake and put a note of kindness with it. The next day, the church custodian drove across town and delivered the cake.
The next morning, from my office I could hear the old guy telling the receptionist, “Give this to Dr. McKeever and tell him to get my name right the next time.”
She brought the cake into my office, set it on the table, and walked out.