Yesterday I was sitting at a stoplight and watched as a young lady made her way across the busy road in a wheelchair. A large, jacked-up truck was waiting to turn left through the crosswalk where the young lady was struggling to get her wheelchair through the intersection. The truck crept closer and closer to the girl, to the point where I could no longer even see her from my position directly across from her. I thought what a jerk he was being as this poor girl was obviously doing her best to hurry and she was clearly not moving fast enough for the man in the truck.
Eventually she cleared enough of the lane so that the truck could squeeze through and he sped off. At the next intersection, I was a couple cars back from the truck as we stopped at the red light and I watched as two women in a minivan pulled up next to the offending truck and proceeded to berate the man with extreme anger and intensity. I could see their arms flailing as they screamed at the man, even pulling out an iPad and sticking it out the window as they yelled, I assume to show him that they had photographed or videoed his actions and were going to report him. The screaming match continued for the duration of the red light when the truck escaped and the minivan (angrily and erratically) pulled off to the side of the busy road.
I'm sure there is probably some fancy name for this concept but I don't remember what it is [ETA: Pastor Terry said it comes from a book by Steve Viars titled "Putting Your Past In Its Place"], but anyhow, there are four characteristics represented....guilty, innocent, responds poorly/sinfully, responds well.
I see this in my life (and the life of my children) every day. With every situation that arises, I'm either innocent or guilty and then I have a choice as to how I will respond. The women in that minivan were innocent, they hadn't done anything wrong, yet they responded poorly. The man in the truck was guilty (in my estimation) but from what I saw (I couldn't hear his words), responded well. When my children do something wrong, my response is always softer and more forgiving when they respond well (repentantly and with humility) as opposed to responding with prideful defiance and without remorse. [Not saying I'm right to respond more gently...I should be gentle despite their response, just being honest.]
I remember reading "Love and Respect" a few years ago and being struck by Emerson Eggerich's idea of "being right at the top of your voice." Basically what he was saying is that we may be right but we close down communication with the other person because we approach them with the wrong attitude; we come at them with anger, contempt, a harsh tone, cold body language, disrespect. I could easily see that in myself in my marriage. It is embarrassing how quickly I can justify my sinful response. And the irony is that we are so quick to see it in our children and call it out, "It doesn't matter if she started it, your reaction isn't justified!"
I don't have a lot of point to this other than 1) I find this matrix helpful when thinking through various situations, and 2) seeing this situation play out in front of me as I sat in my car reminded me of how often I can be the one that even when I'm "innocent", I respond poorly and the other person doesn't hear my message because I'm being right at the top of my voice.
The remarkable thing is, Jesus, while completely innocent, took on our guilt. He was sinless (can you imagine?!). And while being sinless, he voluntarily died for the sins of those who are anything short of guiltless. In light of that, I desire to choose to respond well whether I'm guilty or innocent.