I work at a restaurant, and in the slow hours, I get to pour cups of coffee at the counter and have extended conversations with the customers.
Vietnam Veterans… older men… story tellers… I pour them coffee, but they aren’t fooling me. They are there for conversation just as much as caffeine.
When the night gets late, the conversations go deep. I hear stories of slaughter – then dead friends – the smell of morgues and embalming materials… then anger as he remembers some Vietnamese people holding their noses as they walked by the morgue… “I wanted to put a bullet in every one of them. Our boys were dying fighting for their country!”
First, I’m repulsed by his violent thought (remember, I’m a pacifist). Then, I register the depth of his emotion, and I begin to imagine the depth of his grief. I begin to feel with him the shock and pain of a friend gone – so alive and full of promise one moment – then so stiff, cold, and unresponsive the next. There’s no explanation for it. Nothing that satisfies. It’s all so meaningless, yet, I must believe it mattered. I must believe it wasn’t in vain! Surely he didn’t die for nothing?
Yet, when that death appears to be disregarded by the very people I want to believe it served – when the treasured friend’s existence is simply relegated to the stench that follows his departure – when such loss is simply an inconvenience to the passerby… yes. There is real anger. Deep disgust. Unfiltered hatred. How can the death of a friend I loved be treated so lightly?
And, then, my mind flashes to Jesus… and his Father looking on. I wonder, “How does God feel when we snub our noses at Him after he gave us His Son?”
It was for love that Jesus came. It was for love that the Father sent Him. It was for love that as He died on that cross, He cried out, “Father, forgive them. They do not know what they do.“