Some years back, unbeknownst to me, the idiomatic phrase, “to throw someone under the bus” was greatly popularized by sports journalists. But it wasn’t until a few years ago that I first heard the phrase, when one day at work I was blamed for something that I didn’t have a clue about. As I left the scene somewhat stunned and confused by what had just happened, a co-worker said, “Boy did he throw you under the bus!” I wasn’t yet crystal clear about the meaning of the phrase, but in that moment I could have written an essay on what it feels like to be down on the ground under the wheels of a bus. Basically, it felt like I had the weight of a bus was crushing the breath out of me.
Wikipedia, and other sources, describe the meaning of throwing someone under the bus as sacrificing another person or using them as a scapegoat, often out of malice or for personal gain. Many times this person is a friend or an ally, someone who is usually not deserving of such treatment. I’m sure that most of us have had this happen at least once in our life, if not more. Maybe you’ve been the person to throw someone under the bus. I wish it weren’t true, but I didn’t have to think long before I could recall a few times of being the perpetrator rather than the recipient. Thank God for His forgiveness. But just last week I found myself once again looking up at the bottom of a bus and smelling that old familiar smell of axle grease. Truth be known, I don’t like it any more now than I did then. I’m pretty sure that I am not alone in this sentiment. But like it or not, in big and small ways it happens to people every day: politicians let their subordinates take the fall for questionable decisions; co-workers blame one another when they don’t want to take responsibility for their mistakes; one spouse blames another when a critical appointment is missed…
Our minds start spinning with questions and temptations when we are feeling the weight of the bus crushing in. There’s a pull between how we want to respond and how we should respond. Which response will win? How are we to calm the fury that rises up in the throat after being wrongfully accused? What will restore the peace in our hearts once the damage has been done? Will it help if we scream and cry and proclaim our innocence loud enough for everyone to hear? What damage control measures can we take? Would it hurt if we retaliated just a little bit?
All of these questions and temptations were rolling around in my heart and mind when I started to feel the weight of the bus crushing in. And then, the day after the “incident” I opened the Bible to a passage found in Luke 4. I came upon this passage because lately I have been taking a closer look at life of Jesus while he walked the face of this earth. I had read this passage several times but never in light of feeling like I was being used as a scapegoat for someone else’s bad temper. In this particular part of the book of Luke, Jesus was standing in a synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth, reading from a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Upon completion of his reading Jesus sat down and began to expound upon the words that He had just read. Scripture says that the people “spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips.” But then Jesus began to tell the people truths that were less than pleasing to their ears. His words exposed their unbelief and rejection as the reason why the Gentiles were being shown favor. Offended and infuriated the people ushered Jesus out of town and tried to throw him off of a cliff. Instead of taking his words as a warning and an opportunity to deal with the problem in their own hearts, they made Jesus the scapegoat. But what I found to be really interesting was Jesus’ response. He didn’t say anything to defend himself and he didn’t call them out on their evil hearts. In fact, Jesus didn’t strike out at them in any way. Instead he quietly walked right through the crowd of people and went on his way.
This passage made me think about other times that Jesus was figuratively thrown under a bus, or as in this particular circumstance they literally tried to throw him off of a cliff. The people loved Jesus when he was working miracles and speaking words that they agreed with, but they were out for blood when Jesus told them things that exposed their own shortcomings. Can’t we all relate to this happening in our lives? Jesus was a convenient scapegoat. If only they would have understood that Jesus was sent to be the perfect lamb, the lamb who loved them so much that he was willing to give his life to bring them reconciliation with his Father. Jesus’ words were (and are) better than pure gold, if only they would have taken his words to heart instead of taking offense.
What I experienced last week was but a microscopic peak at injustice when I compare it to what Jesus endured, and even to what many others have had to endure. It hurt, but I in no way want to make this bigger than it actually was. However, because there is a pretty good probability that this will happen again, I want to pay close attention to the lessons that can be learned when looking up at the underside of a bus. In other words, how can I cooperate to bring about God’s best in an otherwise ugly situation. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer, but looking at Jesus’ life we can pull out a few guidelines to help us to respond better when the injustices of life hit home.
- When someone throws you under the bus you don’t have to stay there.
I don’t know about you, but when my feelings are hurt I tend to replay the offense over and over in my mind and I tend to get stuck there for a little while. Sometimes I will even try to reason with the other person hoping to get a better understanding on their perspective, and of course hoping that I can help them to understand my position as well. But when I look at Jesus’ response to the people trying to throw him off of a cliff, I see no indication that he got stuck. He didn’t linger there shouting and screaming that their treatment of him was unfair. He didn’t call down the powers of heavens to strike the people dead. And he didn’t try to reason with them when they were people who were not in a reasonable state of mind. Instead, Jesus quietly walked through the crowd of people and went on his way. He continued on the mission for which he was sent to earth.
- The best way to overcome evil, is to overcome evil with good.
In the heat of the moment this particular principle may feel impossible to live out. If we are honest, most of us want to even the score a bit when someone hurts us. If you are like me you probably don’t carry through with such thoughts, but the thoughts are there nonetheless. Vengeance, if any is needed, belongs to the Lord. When we take matters into our own hands we end up making a bigger mess of things. In Luke chapter 6 Jesus shows us the way of excellence when dealing with the people who hurt us. He said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you (Luke 6:27-36).”
- Remembering your mission will help you to exercise better self-control in the heat of the moment.
Betrayal brings about feelings of anger, anger often leads to hateful words and actions, hateful words and actions can make a bad situation worse. Throughout Scripture I see that Jesus kept his focus on the reason that the Father sent him to earth. Realizing that Jesus was tempted in all of the ways that we are, there must have been times when he was tempted to throw caution to the wind and respond in ways that would be less than constructive. It looks to me like his intentional focus helped him to keep things in a proper perspective and to react accordingly. For example, I am encouraged when I see how Jesus responded to Judas even though he knew that Judas would betray him into the hands of those who wanted to end his life. At Passover Jesus ate one last supper with his disciples. During this time he spoke the truth about what was going to happen and how one of them would betray him. Jesus treated Judas with the same loving kindness that he treated the others. In doing so, I believe that Jesus gave Judas one last opportunity to choose the right path. When Judas came to the Mount of Olives accompanied by a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, he gave Jesus the kiss of a friend, the prearranged signal that Jesus was the one that the soldiers had come for. I think that I would have been tempted to spit in Judas’ face, but listen to Jesus’ words, “Friend, do what you came for (Matt 26:50).” Jesus remembered who he was and what he had been sent to do. He didn’t let the heat of the moment cause him to step off of the path.
- There is no peace without forgiveness.
Truthfully, I didn’t want to forgive the person who threw me under the bus, I wanted to hold onto the anger for a little bit. It felt like my right to do so. It wasn’t the first time that this particular person had made me the scapegoat for their anger. But everywhere I turned it seemed like God was using my circumstances to tell me that I must make the choice to forgive even if this person was likely to do this again. I know full well that forgiveness is a must if I want any internal peace and also if I have any hope of peace returning to this relationship. But also, I know from Scripture that there will be no peace with God unless I choose the path of forgiveness. I can’t move forward if I am not at peace with God. I was reminded of Jesus’ words when he hung on the cross carrying my sin and yours. He could have called down legions of angels to come to his defense, but he didn’t. He could have called down curses from heaven, but he didn’t. Instead he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:34).”
Just as sure as God had a plan for Jesus’ time on earth, He also has a plan for my life. A big part of that plan is the fact that I am a woman who is on a mission to share the love of Christ. God has a plan for your life as well. Under the bus experiences can wreck havoc with the work that God wants to do in and through us if we don’t submit our heart, mind, and will to Him.
It was one thing to have God’s Word speak these Biblical truths to my heart, and another thing to actually do what God was asking me to do. Unless I allowed His Words to live in me, changing my heart and actions, they would have remained mere words written on paper. Once I agreed with God and made a choice to let go of my anger and forgive this person, peace began to fill my heart. Then I was able to pray for healing from whatever is causing such ugliness to grow and fester inside of this person’s heart. Instead of wrecking havoc with the work that God wants to do in and through me, God is using this experience to further refine me for the mission to which He has called me.
The lessons I’ve listed are what God impressed upon my heart as I sought His help to get through last week’s mess. The list is not an exhaustive list that tells us what to do in each and every circumstance that we encounter. To my knowledge no such list exists. Why would we need to seek God if we had a perfect formula to follow for any and every situation that we might encounter? It is God who counsels and guides us as to the best way and the best time to move forward. This is something that a list alone cannot do.
There are a few things that I would change about the way that I responded in this situation, but even so, I responded better than I did the last time I found myself under the bus. I am grateful for the lessons learned. Like you, I am but a work in progress. Even so, we can take hope in the fact that Jesus knows full well how to help us let go, and get back up and onto the path that He has planned for our life.
Look up my friends, your deliverer is near!