“Do you get angry at your cat for scratching you at times?” My question surprised him. He didn’t know I, or anyone else, knew about his kitten.
“How you know?” he questioned me, but with a smile.
“Who told me is not important here. Just answer my question.” I wasn’t going to let him get off the subject. He had been complaining to me about his neighbor, not just today but for weeks now. And for weeks I had no wisdom or advice for him, until I found out about his cat.
His neighbor is like most in prison. Most were raised by the streets, not parents. Manners are void. Pride and selfishness are great. Loud is the only level they know. Caring about others is false and many times absent. In truth, most in prison act and live like beasts. It’s just in their fallen nature.
“No,” he answered my question, knowing I wasn’t going to give up my source that easily. My kitten doesn’t know any better. When we play around she gets a little rowdy at times, and scratches. It’s who she is and what she does. She is an animal, a wild prison-cat animal.”
“But do you get mad at her?” I asked again to make sure he would understand the point I was about to make.
“Can’t,” he said.
I used his explanation of the kitten’s natural rowdiness to make my point. An animal or beast knows only what it knows. It acts like an animal because it is an animal. His kitten scratches because it’s in her natural being to do so. And, even when his wild prison-kitten grows up, it will continue to be an animal.
Just because a street-raised man is now in prison doesn’t mean he now has manners. A dead soul doesn’t become alive just because his neighbor is a Christian. Their nature is who they are. And what they are is dead. Children of a dead, animal-like world. They can’t help being, and acting like, animals. It’s natural to them.
I reminded my cat-loving friend that he and I once were like his neighbor. Our animal, beast-like ways were part of our dead natures. Not only offensive to others around us, but most importantly, toward God. Our manners were void. Our pride and selfishness were great. Our sins were loud. And our care for others was empty. It was all about us and our desires to fulfill our lives with everything worldly. Shaking our fists toward our Creator and scratching at those He sent to show us the way.
We were beasts, animal-like. Dead. It was our nature. And yet, even with all our beastly ways, Abba Father still gave us His Son. Yeshua freely and willingly went out of His way to love us.
“So what you’re saying is for me to stop complaining and start loving my problem neighbor?” He knew the answer already. But he asked me anyway.
“Love him like you love your cat,” I answered, almost laughing. But he understood.
We all have our hard-to-like neighbors in our lives. They can be our bosses, co-workers, teammates, even our own family members. It’s easy to get mad at them, even trashing them by complaining to others. We reason and make excuses for our anger and frustration.
However, as children of the living God we are to love our hard-to-like neighbors as Yeshua did (and continues to do) for us. Our witness to them, by loving them, just might be the only gospel they will see and come to know.
“So,” my friend was burning to know. “Who told you about my kitten?”
“Duh!” I said with my eyes crossed. “You did!”
“Your arms are all scratched up. Your neck has scratches too. You now collect the state’s mystery lunch meat from everyone. You hate the meat. It was obvious, to me, you either had a cat or you had gone mad.”
He looked at his arms and said, “Oh, I see what you mean!!”
… thanking God for loving this animal …
Adrian G. Torres
(UPDATE: The very day I finished writing this story, my cat-loving’s hard-to-like neighbor was moved, by the officers, to another building and cell. Guess whose neighbor he is now? Mine. I guess I must practice what I preached.)