Imagine you had an older brother who worked very hard doing some back-breaking manual labor job. Each and every day, your brother would toil, growing ill, his hands bleeding from the hard work.
Now, imagine that each and every day, you witnessed this older brother collect some meager pay for the job. And each and every evening, when, spent, he would walk home, you would witness a bigger guy beat your brother up and take all of his money. Fearful, you hide in the bushes, because you know if you step in and try to help, the bigger guy will KILL you because you’re pretty small and you’ve never learned how to fight.
So you feel helpless, and while your brother is being robbed of everything he worked so hard to earn, all you can do is look at the big red bag that this thief carries on him. When he’s done torturing your brother, he places the money in the red bag and walks off, leaving your brother with nothing, another day lost.
This happens each day, and perhaps you do manage to learn to fight and grow stronger, but when you try to stand up to the bully, he is still bigger, and stronger, and he has bigger and stronger friends, and they rob you, too.
And each of them carries a red bag. And each day, you find yourself staring at that red bag, and that red bag becomes a symbol to you – something that you associate with fear and pain and hopelessness.
Sometimes, you manage to get home really quickly, and you give your money to your mother to buy food, but sometimes, the men carrying the red bags find out and come and beat up your mother, too.
When you band together with other friends in your neighborhood, trying to seek safety in numbers, the men carrying the bags come at night and burn down your house, or your friends’ houses. And every time, you just keep seeing that red bag, the bag that took all of your hard work, and all of your dreams.
Over time, you would never want to see that red bag. You would tell your children, and your children’s children, to beware the men with the red bags.
Suppose, still, that some men from a different village came along and said they were going to protect you from the men with the red bags, and they actually fought those men, and made them stop taking everything you’ve earned.
The men from the other village beat up the men with red bags, and shamed them, and took away all of their stolen money, but they only gave a little of it back to you. Then they went away again, leaving you to deal with the men with the red bags.
The men with the red bags are no longer as powerful. But sometimes, they still come in the night, and you never know when, and instead of stealing your money, they just destroy everything they can to remind you that they still have power over you, and because they want to punish you for what the men in the other village did to them.
Imagine that the men with red bags hang those bags high on poles in the town square as a symbol of the time when they were on top, the time before the men from the other village came along and took away the contents of the red bag. The Glory Days.
And all these many years, you still never know when a man with a red bag will turn up and do you harm. They come to burn, they come to kill, even as you try to forgive them, and invite them to pray with you.
And still, you look at the red bags, and you feel anger, fear, and resentment.