April 2, 2002
One day, at the age of twenty-eight, I was working as a salesman, driving my car through an industrial park outside of Chicago, Illinois.
Suddenly, a large semi-truck, trying to back into a receiving dock, pulled out in front of me, causing me to quickly apply my brakes to avoid hitting it.
Instead of apologizing, the driver of the truck glared down, looking at me from inside his cab and shouting profanity, calling me a name while giving me his middle finger! He looked straight into my eyes as if daring me to do something about what he had just done to me.
His belligerent invitation was clear, “You want some of this”?
Instantly, I became furious at his insult! For years after participating in college football and track, I religiously weight trained for two hours a day until I could bench press 335 lbs. and do 119 push-ups in a minute. There was no way I was going to take this type of treatment sitting down! I pulled my car over, got out, slammed the door shut, and asked him if “He had a problem he wanted me to fix.”
Upon seeing this, the driver responded by violently jerking his emergency brake on and jumping down from the top of his rig, yelling and threatening to physically harm me.
I quickly ascertained that this guy was obviously no slouch. He wore a crew cut, like a young Mike Ditka, and his shirtsleeves were rolled up past his deltoid muscles, exposing the tattoos he had all up and down the sides of his arms. He was only about 5’8″ tall, but he was also 5’8″ wide, and his physique resembled a coke machine. His cowboy belt buckle was bigger than my head, and his aggressive, herky-jerky movements reminded me of the Tasmanian devil character from the Bugs Bunny cartoons.
His hardened appearance looked as if he had definitely spent some time in prison.
Anticipating a fight, I tore off my suit coat and threw it to the ground. I planted my feet squarely beneath me, turned the left side of my upper body toward the driver, and put up my two dukes.
He shouted at me again as he came toward me, asking “What’s your problem?”
With my right fist cocked under my chin, I pointed at the driver with my left hand as I listed for him in categorical order the number of offenses I felt he had committed against me. When I finished making my points, he did something I will never forget.
He put his hands on his hips, dropped his chin to his chest, and stared down at the ground, as if he were thinking about something. After a long pause, he shook his head no, looked up and extended his right hand to me as if to shake mine.
“You’re right” he said, “I did those things to you, will you forgive me?”
“What”? I asked in disbelief.
He repeated himself and said, “You’re right man, I did all those things you said, will you forgive me?”
I was stunned as I stood there with my fists up, looking at his outstretched hand. “Are you serious?” I asked in disbelief.
“Yea, man,” he said, “I’m sorry, will you forgive me?” And he continued his offer to shake hands.
“Don’t take it,” I thought, “It’s a trick. The moment I agree to take his hand and shake it, he’ll sucker punch me.”
After a long awkward moment, I very slowly and carefully reached out with my left hand and shook the tips of his fingers, while my right fist remained cocked under my chin. As I shook the fingertips of his right hand, he said, “I’m sorry for what I did.”
I was shocked and began to feel embarrassed and convicted by my own behavior. “I’m sorry, too,” I mumbled, “Sometimes I just get too mad.”
He wished me a good day, climbed back up into his rig and drove off, leaving me standing they’re alone in the street, trying to understand what had just happened. We could have really hurt each other that day, but the driver of the truck wouldn’t allow it to happen.
I gathered up my suit coat from the ground and walked slowly back to my car. I was so humbled by the experience; I told the Lord I would never, ever lose my temper again while driving in my car. In the past twenty-seven years since that incident with the truck driver occurred, I’ve kept my promise.
Now, when people are rude to me in their cars I just smile and wave, get out of their way, and pray for their happiness.
Looking back, I can’t help but believe that the truck driver was probably like me, an infant Christian, too. Most truck drivers, as rough as he looked, don’t stop themselves in the middle of a heated confrontation and use words like “forgive” unless they are a Christian themselves, and in his case, a better one than I was that day.
The Bible says, in Proverbs 25:22, that “when you’re kind to your enemy, it’s like pouring hot coals on their head.”
I always used to think that verse meant you were punishing or hurting your enemy in some way, until it was explained to me that when your kind to your enemy, the hot coals you’re pouring on their head aren’t meant to hurt them but to melt your enemy’s heart.
That truck driver changed my life for forever that day when he asked me for forgiveness. As a result, he melted my heart out there in the middle of the street and made me a better man for it.
How many people’s lives have we impacted and improved recently by practicing “meekness”? Many times we as Christians are given the opportunity to melt the heart of an unbeliever by extending kindness to them when they don’t deserve it. If we’re going to win souls for Christ, we have to be ready to demonstrate “meekness” and restrain ourselves from hurting people back when they offend and mistreat us.
When Abraham Lincoln was finally elected President of the United States after being repeatedly attacked and personally ridiculed being called an ugly monster and a monkey by those running against him, his constituents urged Lincoln to finally use his new Presidential power to payback and “destroy his enemies”. Lincoln, a Christian refused and responded by saying “He destroyed his enemies when he made them his friends.”
He poured hot coals on their heads and melted their hearts!
If our precious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ could say, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”, as he was being beaten and crucified for our sins, we need to follow his example by loving, forgiving and praying for those who persecute us.
We need to melt our enemy’s hearts.
By - Jim Wehrheim