An article written for the All Saints Presbyterian Church November 2011 newsletter:
An interesting piece of news recently came out of my home state of Florida. The Associated Press headline read: “Pizza workers burn down rival store.”
According to the subsequent article, “The battle for pizza supremacy has taken a wrong turn in Florida. Two managers of a Domino’s Pizza restaurant in Lake City, in north-central Florida, have been charged with burning down a rival Papa John’s location.”
Why did they decide to burn down Papa John’s? “Police say one of the men admitted that he believed with his competitor out of the way, more pizza lovers would flock to his restaurant.” Both men involved (ages 22 & 23) have been arrested and await trial.
I laughed at the headline, and if it weren’t for the destruction they caused, I would have found the article to be humorous as well. What ridiculous lengths they went to! And over pizza! It sounds like something out of a mediocre comedy film.
But the reality is that I’ve done the same thing many times. While I haven’t actually burned down anyone’s pizza shop, I have had a heart of envy, jealousy, and malice. I’ve been bitter about someone else’s success and I’ve even tried to prevent it. There is nothing at all humorous about that.
According to Romans 3, we all act that way:
None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.
This is one of the most important realizations a Christian can have: the only thing that has ever kept me from acting on the desires of my heart (even burning down a Papa John’s) is the grace of God. I came into this world broken and sinful. My only hope is his grace.
Romans 3 goes on to say that even though “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” we are “justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” It is miraculous and amazing: that “in his divine forbearance he [has] passed over our former sins.” Even though we fall woefully short of what we should be, he showed “his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
So I shouldn’t laugh at the pizza arsonists. I should see myself in them – their battle for pizza supremacy is no different than the sins of my heart. I should pray that God would show his grace to them – his grace is the only difference between me and them. And I should thank God for his forbearance – that he would pass over my sins and give me more faith in Jesus.
Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever! (Psalm 136.26)