As many of you know, yesterday was a harrowing experience for my friend and I. After catching up for lunch (at VCR cafe, which by the way had fantastic food), we took a short walk back to the train station where we had disembarked earlier. Neither of us drove that day because the place we were going to was easier to access via train. Admittedly, we were in a dodgier part of Kuala Lumpur (Pudu for anyone interested), and admittedly we may have been too engrossed in our conversation to have been observant about our surroundings. However, this obviously did not excuse the perpetrator who came up from behind us on a motorcycle.
He was driving up on the pavement, counter to the direction of traffic flow and snuck up really close to us. We turned around and moved aside to give him way, thinking he was trying to park his motorcycle by the pavement. Nope, he smiled at us, raised his eyebrows and grabbed my sling bag, dragging it along until the metal strap broke. Within seconds it was over and he was out of sight. No one was hurt, thankfully, because snatch-thefts could have gone much worse (i.e. he could have dragged me down, I could have hit the pavement, a car could have run me over, he could have had a parang…) however, we took a few seconds to gather our bearings. What happened next (our trip to two police stations, giving statements in my not-so-proficient Malay, buying train tickets home) is probably not worth narrating. However, this experience has left me with some thoughts (but, thankfully, no scars):
1. Who is the real victim here?
The area that we were in was probably inhabited by those of a lower socioeconomic class. Neither my friend or myself lives in that area, and as we were walking to the nearest police station (yep, walking in the area we just got robbed in), we were more aware of the general calamity that entails more under-developed areas. I’m thankful that I didn’t have to grow up in these sort of areas, where daylight robberies are probably of frequent occurrences, and loan-sharks hang at your doorstep, demanding retribution. However, there are people living in these areas (plenty of them, from what we saw), where crime is their daily reality.
I began wondering if it is the girl who is now living overseas (me), or the man on the motorbike who feels the need to steal and potentially harm others in order to survive in their crime-infested reality, who is the real victim of this crime. To clarify, I am not insisting that I am a selfless altruist who will piously allow my things to be stolen without feeling indignant. I am rightfully annoyed and sad, and have spent my whole afternoon getting my ID cards replaced and bank cards sent to me. However, I am learning to empathise, or at least recognise, the difficult circumstances that shape the life of an individual to make someone the way he is. I have never felt the need to steal to survive, at least not in this way, and yesterday I came face-to-face with someone who does.
I can’t help but wonder for those who face these realities (and worse) every day, and how it feels like to be on the other end. I believe what makes us human is not just our ability to feel loss, but also our sensitivity towards our other human fellows, who may have caused your suffering, but may have had experienced so much upon themselves too.
2. Forgiveness in action
Should we only forgive those who are repentant? Should we only forgive if we have not been terribly harmed; if our losses can be made up? I don’t know the answers to these questions. Maybe I would answer differently if I had been physically scathed or emotionally traumatised by this experience, but I do believe in the necessity of forgiveness. Forgiveness at many times seems pointless and counter-intuitive. It turns many heads. I remember when my church forgave the perpetrators who firebombed our church seven years ago. That certainly got a lot of approval and touched many hearts.
It’s important to note that I do believe there is such a thing as healthy indignation, and I think my desire to see justice served is valid. However, it’s precisely because I desire to see justice served that I know that I should forgive those who have harmed me. Because if perfect justice is to be served, surely I too will be caught under the same rod, and I too will be punished. At the end of the day, I hope my perpetrator will be caught and dealt with fairly under the law, but I do know that the Christian instruction to forgive still stands, because at the end of all days we will all stand before our Maker, and account for everything we did. And God knows we need forgiveness, He really does.
“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:25
3. The difficulty of sameness
Amazingly, right before I left for the cafe, I was reading an expository book regarding Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. This particular quote struck very deeply with me, and was amplified after yesterday:
“Thunderously, inarguably, the Sermon on the Mount proves that before God we all stand on level ground: murderers and temper-throwers, adulterers and lusters, thieves and coveters. We are all desperate, and that is in fact the only state appropriate to a human being who wants to know God. Having fallen from the absolute Ideal, we have nowhere to land but in the safety net of absolute grace.” – Phillip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew
Thieves and coveters. Are Christians ready to admit that we are on-par with those who have harmed us? Or do we struggle to draw the parallels? Yes, it may be true that we don’t go around snatching purses, but Jesus draws the point that as long as we covet (or desire the things of others), we are unrighteous before Him and we have failed His ideal. The Gospel once again proved itself to be amazing news to me yesterday, because it encouraged me that thieves are not beyond the grace of God. In fact, Jesus came to save the worst of the worst. But also, it’s amazing news because neither am I beyond the grace of God. I, in my politically-correct, self-assured nature, have tasted His grace and can enter His presence and love. It leaves me with the conclusion that whether a thief or coveter, the Gospel is good news to everyone. This includes those who harm and those who have been harmed.
What does the Gospel mean to you today?
P/S: Thanks for all your kind words and concern! I am truly grateful and appreciative. ❤