How can I be angry at him? He’s dying.

How can I be angry at him? He’s dying. At one level, this is the story of me and a dog. The little guy in the picture below. At a higher level, one specific man. But at its core, it’s about every person on the planet. Not as a group. As individuals. And while it may sound sad, it’s a story that can have a very happy ending.

A dog – Donnie – How can I be angry at him? He’s dying.

How can I be angry at him?  He's dying.

That’s Donnie in the car. My wife and I adopted him 15 years ago, so he’s probably 16 years old. He’s been a source of great joy. A gift from God.

But now his kidneys are failing.

Donnie has become a very picky eater. Before, he’d gobble up anything and everything put in front of him.

Let’s take a look at his story.

Donnie – not perfect and not wanted

Donnie was abandoned, along with the rest of his litter when his previous people lost their house. Who knows how long he lived on grass and whatever else he could find in the yard.

At some point, Donnie was picked up by a pound. A kill shelter. All his brothers and sisters were adopted. Not Donnie. Probably ’cause his teeth were crooked. He wasn’t perfect. So no one wanted him.

Donnie was saved by a rescue shelter. We don’t know how long he was there, but it was at least long enough that he had full-grown adult teeth when we adopted him.

But there’s more to Donnie’s story. He was adopted by a family just one day before I called about him. About a week later, I had this feeling that I should call again. The Holy Spirit? I believe so. It turns out, the family had just called to say they were bringing Donnie back, the very next day.

Donnie – false hope and rejection

I was there when the man brought him back. He tried to tell me not to take Donnie because he was a mean dog. Bit his little girl. Little kids and little dogs aren’t a good mix. The kids don’t know yet how strong they are compared to a little 10-pound dog. I figure the girl probably hurt him – and he bit back.

So I picked him up – looked him in the eye – and said, “It’s a good thing for you we don’t have any kids. Let’s go home!”

Donnie – still not perfect – wanted again – and not rejected

As I said, Donnie brought us so much joy over the past 15 years. However, he had digestive issues ever since we adopted him. Probably because of whatever he lived on when he was a puppy. So he’s had a special diet, but always ate what we gave him.

Now, a more special diet. Just like people, when dog’s kidneys begin to fail, they lose their appetite. And feel nausea. So we’ve got several different brands of kidney food. Some hard. Some soft. But still not always what he wants.

So now I started cooking for Donnie. Chicken. Salmon. Rice. Squash. Zucchini. Egg whites. Green beans. Red bell pepper. And more.

Sometimes he eats. Sometimes not.

You can probably imagine, sometimes we’re torn between sadness and frustration. Frustration that he won’t eat. Sadness that he will die sooner if he doesn’t eat.

Followed by the realization that he doesn’t eat because of how he feels. I think back to a time when I was in the hospital and even the thought of ordering food was enough to make me want to throw up. My wife brought me my favorite fast food – a Mexican Pizza from Taco Bell. I took one bite and very nearly did throw up. Couldn’t eat it. I had to spit it out.

And then – the title of this article came to mind.

Donnie – How can I be mad at him? He’s dying.

We know there’s no cure for Donnie’s kidneys. We aren’t rich enough to do dialysis – if it really even does work. But we’re also sensitive to his quality of life. It’s been that way for all our dogs. Donnie’s known all four of the others, two of whom were about 15 when we adopted him. They almost made it to 18.

And now Donnie’s gone from the bottom of the pack to the king of the house. He’s the only one remaining. He absolutely loves being “top dog”. Getting all the attention. He was too timid to do anything but submit to the others. Almost. We did have a Chow-German Shepherd mix for a number of years. When it came to things like eating, I trained them so that Hachiko, the Chow mix, was last.

Anyway, our goal now is to make Donnie as comfortable and happy as possible for whatever time he has left. If you’ve had dogs, you know that you just know when it’s time. And for Donnie – he still enjoys life very much. Walking. Car rides in that little sky-box so he can get his head out the window. Meeting his friends – dogs and people. Guarding the house. Keeping track of where I am.

And so, we try to give Donnie life to the full. As full as it can possibly be.

OK – so now what?

So – that’s Donnie.

Next, we have the story of one specific man. One Someone many of you are familiar with. A man that’s mentioned in the Bible. Someone often associated with money and the problems that often come with lots of money. But someone who we can also learn so much from.

One specific man – The Rich Young Man – How can I be angry at him? He’s dying.

Depending on which Gospel you read, this person is described as a rich young man – or a rich ruler. Either way, here’s what we know of him.

The Rich Young Man – Mark

10:17-31 pp — Mt 19:16-30; Lk 18:18-30

Mk 10:17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Mk 10:18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’’”

Mk 10:20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

Mk 10:21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Mk 10:22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Mk 10:23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”

Mk 10:24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

Mk 10:26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”

Mk 10:27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

Mk 10:28 Peter said to him, “We have left everything to follow you!”

Mk 10:29 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

Maybe you wonder what this has to do with anything. Especially, how is this rich young man connected with Donnie? Maybe even if I’m going to get into how money is the problem when we get to every person on the planet. Well, relax, the money part isn’t coming up. As to how it is connected, here it is.

The rich young man – thinking he’s perfect and wanted

This rich ruler went to Jesus with an expectation. An expectation that Jesus will tell him he’s perfect. In fact, this man believes he’s been perfect ever since he was a little boy.

Mk 10:20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

The rich young man – false hope and rejection

Here, we have false hope and rejection. However, not in the same manner as we saw with Donnie above.

No. This time, the false hope is entirely within the young man. He believes he’s perfect. And Jesus tells him otherwise.

Mk 10:21 Jesus looked at him … . “One thing you lack,” he said.

The young man was crushed.

Mk 10:22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

He was sure he had been rejected.

And yet, this young man wasn’t rejected. Not for being rich. He wasn’t rejected because he wasn’t perfect either. In fact, this young man rejected Jesus. He rejected Jesus because of his love for the money he had. He wasn’t willing to give it up. And so this young man walks away from Jesus.

The young man’s false hope was false hope about himself. And his rejection was his own rejection of Jesus.

The rich young man – still not perfect – wanted again – and not rejected

Unfortunately, this part of the story apparently didn’t happen.

Yes, the young man was still not perfect.

However, this rich young man was still wanted – by Jesus.
And this rich young man was not rejected by Jesus. As we already saw, it was the other way around. Jesus was rejected by the young man.

How can I say these things? From seven little words in that passage. Seven words that I replaced with “…” in my explanation above. Here’s the entire verse, with all the words:

Mk 10:21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Do you see it now?

Jesus looked at him and loved him.

Even knowing this rich young man was about to reject Him, Jesus looked at him and loved him. I’m pretty sure the love was visible in Jesus’ eyes. If the young man looked.

But even beyond that, look what Jesus said:

Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.

There are two very important things in what Jesus said to this rich young man.

First – Jesus told the young man how to come closer to the perfection he thought he already achieved. The young man’s feeling of not being perfect enough for Jesus could be deal with. Maybe he didn’t really want to be perfect. Maybe he did. We aren’t told. But either way, Jesus told him how to take the next step on the path to become perfect.

Second – Jesus invited the man to take that step, and then to return! This was not a rejection by Jesus at all!

And so, the rich young man rejected the next step on the path to perfection. And he rejected Jesus.

Unfortunately, as Jesus tells us in the remainder of the passage, this situation is all too common. We can only take those steps to perfection with God’s help. Ultimately, we must really want to take those steps so badly that we’re willing to trust God to help us get there.

Clearly, this rich young man wasn’t ready to do that. But just as clearly, Jesus was willing to invite him back. And so, one last time – the rejection wasn’t from Jesus. The rejection was of Jesus, by the young man.

The rich young man – How can I be mad at him? He’s dying!

Let’s look a bit more at Jesus looked at him and loved him.

This is where I really want to focus the story of the rich young man. Sure – we casually and “knowingly” say the nice churchy words – Jesus loves the young man because God is love. Or something along those lines.

But that thought – How can I be mad at him? He’s dying! – that thought of even being frustrated at Donnie for not eating and thereby shortening his life – that’s what made me think right away of the story of the rich young man in the Bible.

Do you know why? Because as Jesus looks at this young man, knowing he’s going to be rejected, Jesus also knows this man is dying. Yes, dying! I don’t mean physically, since from the time of birth we’re all in the process of dying.

No – I mean this young man is dying spiritually. Jesus knows that when this young man walks away, if he doesn’t take the next step given to him on the path to reaching perfection, this man is going to be spiritually dead. Let’s get real obvious here. This guy’s going to Hell if he rejects Jesus and doesn’t turn around! He’s dying. He’s cementing into place the second death for himself.

How can I be mad at him? He’s dying! – how it all fits together

Now we have Donnie and the rich young man. But how do we go from the two of them to every person? From them to you – the reader?

You may have made at least some of the connections already. There are similarities between Donnie and the rich young man. There are also contrasts – Occurrences that are in some way similar, but with differing perspectives and different reasons behind what we saw.

The same is true when we combine everything we’ve seen so far, and add ourselves into the mix. Let’s take a look.

Every person

Not perfect and not wanted. That certainly describes my feelings at many points in my life. Assuming I’m not unusual in that regard, you have experienced the same things. Maybe you feel them right now. If that’s true, I pray that by the end, you won’t feel unwanted and you won’t feel the strong need to be perfect. Let’s see why.

Every person – false hope and rejection

A lot of us were taught to strive for perfection. That includes everything from grades in school to winning peewee sporting events. For those of you who aren’t aware of peewee sports, it’s little kids’ sports. Very little kids. Like T-ball, where the ball is placed on what looks like an upside-down T and the kid just swings at a stationary ball.

That need for perfection tuns all through school. Into work, whatever work that may be, including and maybe especially sports. Nothing less than the championship is worth having.

For the vast majority of us, that’s false hope. It’s just not going to happen. And even for those who do experience an ultimate win, it doesn’t happen every year. Not even Tom Brady wins every year. And even Tom Brady, who won so much, is still left wondering if there isn’t something more.

And when we don’t win, don’t get the top job, don’t get the best grades, we feel rejected. Rejected by whoever pushes us to achieve those things. And it’s not just a feeling of rejection. Oftentimes, the rejection is very real. Sometimes, like in sports, it’s also very public.

Every person – why the false hope and rejection?

Therein lies the problem for all of us who feel rejected because of scenarios like this. We pin our acceptance on things where we will never be accepted all the time. There will always be times of rejection when things like this are our source of success and acceptance.

For what it’s worth, I can say a few words about this, from experience. When I was a kid, my parents wanted nothing less than absolute success in school. Not just an A on every test, but 100%. At the same time, I was told I was a worthless bum and would never amount to anything.

When it came to college, I got my undergrad degree, but not a job. One firm told me I should’ve gotten at least one B. It would make me seem human. The funny thing is, after the interview, I did get that B. I had an Interpreting Literature class where I was failing every single test, right up to the final. If I failed, I wouldn’t graduate.

So on the final, I wrote only one sentence for what was supposed to be a many-page essay. It was something like this: There’s nothing I can write that a racist like you will be happy with, so I’m not even going to try. And then I turned it in, less than two minutes into the something like two-hour exam period. I got my B.

When I did get a job, it wasn’t for anything I studied. I got into a computer operating systems job because I knew a couple people in the right place, and because no one else would take the job for what they paid. Thirty six years later, I retired, in charge of all the IT infrastructure departments at a large university. Not bad. But also, not appreciated. Ultimately, rejected, in a failed attempt for my boss to keep his job.

But you know what? That’s one of the best things that’s ever happened to me.

Now I spend a lot of time doing research and writing what you’re now reading. I have learned so much. And I love to share it. To help others to feel what I feel now, and to have what I have now. Acceptance, even though I’m not perfect. Love, even though I’m not perfect. And the knowledge that even though I’m not perfect, that’s how God sees me, because of Jesus. And the further knowledge, limited though it is, that what’s next is going to be amazing beyond comprehension!

Everyone – not perfect and not wanted

In this scenario – it really is about not being wanted. Although I have, from time to time, felt not wanted, I have never experienced literally and truly not being wanted by anyone at all, including by God.

There are far too many people who do live like this. Unwanted. By anyone. If not literally everyone, by far too many people. We see it all around us. It’s on the news. It’s probably down the street from where you live. You can see it as you walk or drive around your home.

At least, I think most of us do. I know, there are some who don’t venture outside their protected environment. Some who choose not to look, even though it’s in front of their eyes. But it’s all over. Even here in the U.S., supposedly the greatest country in the world. And for those of us who live here – just imagine what it’s like in other places too numerous to mention.

And yet, even the most unwanted, by human standards, they have a life created by God. God still loves them. Loves you, if you happen to be one of those who are so unwanted and even hated – and have access to be able to read this. Maybe homeless. In prison. A refugee, with no home. A person or family with no country. And on and on.

But yes, God does love you too. And God loves you, even too many people in the world reject you. If you are one of the unwanted and rejected, I have a couple verses for you. I know – it’s “only” two verses. But it’s a promise from God. From God who loves you.

Rev 7:16 Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat upon them,
nor any scorching heat.

Rev 7:17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd;
he will lead them to springs of living water.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Those promises are things I look forward to. Honestly, I cannot imagine how much more promises like that must mean to people who truly are among those unwanted and rejected by too much of the world.

Every person – still not perfect – wanted again – and not rejected

This comes from the story of the rich young man, after he rejects Jesus. We saw earlier how even after Jesus is rejected by this young man, Jesus still loved him. Jesus still wanted him to take that step towards the path of perfection. Jesus did not reject him. The same is true for each one of us as well.

Again, this is something I can speak to. There was a time in my life where I was so angry at God that I was looking for an alternative. I thought maybe I found something in an Eastern religion. But there was just no equivalent to Jesus. There was no way for salvation. No way to spend eternity with God. And so I returned.

And look what’s going on now. Now I’m writing this.

Every person – not rejected and still wanted

I’ve covered a few scenarios above to describe peoples’ lives. I know it’s not complete. But I’m not leaving anyone out. Why not? Because God doesn’t want us to leave anyone out. The conclusion is for everyone, no matter what. No matter what’s happened to you so far. No matter what’s happening right now. God’s love is for all of us. God has not rejected us. And God still wants each one of us.

Conclusion – How can I be angry at him? He’s dying.

At the end of the segment on the rich young man, we read:

This is where I really want to focus the story of the rich young man. Sure – we casually and “knowingly” say the nice churchy words – Jesus loves the young man because God is love. Or something along those lines.

But that thought – How can I be mad at him? He’s dying! – that thought of even being frustrated at Donnie for not eating and thereby shortening his life – that’s what made me think right away of the story of the rich young man in the Bible.

Do you know why? Because as Jesus looks at this young man, knowing he’s going to be rejected, Jesus also knows this man is dying. Yes, dying! I don’t mean physically, since from the time of birth we’re all in the process of dying.

No – I mean this young man is dying spiritually. Jesus knows that when this young man walks away, if he doesn’t take the next step given to him on the path to reaching perfection, this man is going to be spiritually dead. Let’s get real obvious here. This guy’s going to Hell if he rejects Jesus and doesn’t turn around! He’s dying. He’s cementing into place the second death for himself.

Let’s take a deeper look at that.

Jesus looked at that rich young man. Loved him. But told him how to take the next step on the path to perfection. That’s something I fear way too many of us miss. Or choose to miss. I mean, I knew that this was something the young man needed to do. But we tend to focus on the money. The thing that’s preventing him from following Jesus.

And then we apply that lesson to ourselves. What’s in our life that’s preventing us from following Jesus? If we’re rich, we most likely pray it’s not the money. Almost anything, but not the money! Please God – not the money!

But in the midst of paying attention to what we’re willing to give up and don’t want to be asked to give up, we lose the rest of what happened!

Would we love someone who rejected us?

To me, this is a huge part of what happened between Jesus and the rich young man. As I said, Jesus did not reject him. My question is – would we have rejected him? Look at it this way. The young man comes to us, He wants us to tell him he did all the right things. Not only that, but he did everything possible to be as good as possible. Perfect even.

But we know he’s not perfect. And we know his real intent. But even if we get past the false pretenses that led up to the meeting, will we calmly tell him what else he must do? I dare say, many of us would not. We won’t get past the false pretenses and will start right there, lecturing the young man about honesty and being forthright. So much for a loving approach.

However, let’s assume we do get past that point. We tell him the next step. Will we have a smile on our face and love in our eyes as we tell the young man that he must sell his pride and joy and give it away? That his wealth must go to poor people? Probably not.

For the sake of argument, suppose we are able to do that. Then the young man walks away from us. Will we still maintain our composure, let alone will we still love him? Many of us will be telling the young man he’s a fool for walking away from such great advice. We will forget something Jesus said:

Murder
5:25, 26 pp — Lk 12:58, 59

Mt 5:21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

Mt 5:23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

Mt 5:25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”

Oops. We were supposed to help save the poor guy. Instead, we just murdered him.

This part about murder is really important. Important for us as Christians. We really must remember this, and try to live by it. However, it’s also important for non-Christians. People who aren’t Christian look at us in situations where we’re supposed to be helpful and loving, but see us as anything but helpful and loving. We react as “normal”/fallen human beings. Everyone else says we’re no different than anyone else. And non-Christians see no reason to become Christian! And so we mess up again, given that Jesus also said:

The Great Commission

Mt 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said,All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Oops all over again!

Ultimately, the person will reject us. However, before that, we reject them not once, but twice! At least. Maybe even more, with the allowances I made for getting beyond our normal first reactions.

For a deeper look at The Great Commission, I invite you to check out The Great Omission from The Great Commission.

Final thoughts on How can I be angry at him? He’s dying.

In some situations, we are capable of looking at someone and saying, “How can I be angry at him? He’s dying”.

There are so many times when we don’t do that though. It’s often not our first reaction. Things get in the way of that kind of feeling when we feel rejected, forgetting that our objective was to comfort, help, or something nice. And this is true for Christians and non-Christians alike.

As Christians, we are called to live a life patterned after Jesus. To have His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, not only in us but at the forefront of our every thought and decision. To the extent we don’t do that, we are, in a sense, “murdering” someone. Again, not physically, but spiritually. We aren’t helping, but hurting.

However, having said everything to this point, we all must remember, Jesus can and does always look at us and say – “How can I be angry at him? He’s dying”. Or she – it’s just that my two examples were a rich young man and a male dog. But it goes for all of us.

So – at the very beginning I wrote:

But at its core, it’s about every person on the planet. Not as a group. As individuals. And while it may sound sad, it’s a story that can have a very happy ending.

It is a story that can have a happy ending. For every single one of us. If we want to. And if we look to Jesus as the example of what Christians should be like. And what all who follow Jesus will eventually be like – in the next life.

So I urge all of us Christians to try to keep the Holy Spirit at the center of our being. To actually live for like Jesus, in everything we do.

And for no-Christians, I urge you to learn more about what we should be like. To learn more about what Jesus was like during His short time on earth. Because pretty much everyone agrees that things should be better. And they will. But the path to things being better – being perfect – is the one Jesus showed us.

Thank God we’re forgiven, because we don’t follow it all the time. But if we try, Jesus paid the price for our failures. And then in the next life, things really will be as they should be.

So in closing, just remember, even when we walk away from Jesus, He still loves us. And He’s waiting for us to return to Him. If you have walked away, just ask Him to help you to get back on the path. He’s waiting. Lovingly waiting.

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