"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."
Matt. 7:12 (NIV)
"Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for THEM. Add up God's Law and Prophets and this is what you get."
Matt. 7:12 (The Message)
There is an older lady that shops at my store. I see her almost every time I work. Now I see her at the gym I go to almost every time I am there. She always has her baseball hat with the logo for "Dockers" on it. She must be somewhere in her 70s, but she is one of the busiest bees I've ever seen. She walks so much that I think she could out pace a squad of Army Rangers.
A few years back she came up to me in the green house and just started talking to me. She never told me her name, but thanks in large part to her disposition and attitude, I gave her the nick-name of Sunny. She always seems to brighten my day, and it was/is as if she purposely tries to seek me out just so she can say something uplifting to me.
It turns out that her name is Helen. (I finally got around to asking her last month.) Helen loves Jesus...and it shows. I say this not because she is "Religious." If she were a "Religious" person, then she probably wouldn't be so friendly, sweet, nice, or uplifting. The majority of "Religious" people I know seem to have a perpetually sour expression on their faces due to the long broom handle of legalism & judgment stuck deeply where it should not be. So, I will simply say that Helen loves Jesus.
Paul wrote that "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control." (Gal. 5:22) Jesus talked about good trees producing good fruit, and that was how you could tell who was truly his follower. Helen follows Jesus. I can tell because she makes a habit of giving me some of the fruit that the Spirit has produced in her every time she sees me.
I gave Helen some podcasts last week from Rob Bell & Rick McKinley. I didn't see her at the gym today, so I couldn't ask what she thought of them. (Hopefully tomorrow.) I like to listen to sermon podcasts while I bike at the gym. When it is time to hit the weights, I put on all of the sinful, evil music, secular music that "Religious" people would not listen to...like Black Sabbath, Lady Ga Ga...and worst of all, ABBA!
I like to talk to Helen about things that I learn when I listen to these various preachers. Helen is studying the book of Isaiah, so she likes to tell me about her lessons. Maybe I will make a CD for Helen that has Black Sabbath, Lady Ga Ga...and worst of all, ABBA! on it. Then Helen will get really "Buff" and scare any potential Jehovah's Witnesses that might come to her door.
The way we treat other people is extremely important to Jesus. When God looks at a human, he sees a being that bears his image. (You don't have to even believe in God for this to be true.) All people everywhere bear God's image. The way we treat those image bearers is a reflection on how we show God respect.
Along time ago, after I had popped a bolt and had gone into therapy, my Shrink (Who was also a very godly man from my old church.) told me that what ever we keep in the forefront of our minds TOWARDS another person will be picked up BY that person. He taught me to look for whatever tiny scraps that were positive & beautiful in another, and to focus on that. This took some doing on my part, but I can honestly say that it was the best help that I had when I spent all those years in a classroom with "At-Risk" students. It helped to look for the image of God in them.
My friend Deb, said that when I am out, I have a funny habit of always trying to engage the people behind the counter, the waiters & waitresses, and to make them laugh. I hadn't really thought about that, but I think (I HOPE) that it's true. It's a win-win situation for everyone. It's fun to make people laugh. They feel good. You feel good. Ain't nuttin' wrong wit dat!
A friend of mine at work a few months ago gave me a side-ways compliment. He was frustrated with another worker who is often difficult. I told him that I didn't really have a problem with this person. So he says to me, "Yeah, but you don't count. You get along with EVERYONE!"
I can't honestly say that this is true. But I liked it never the less.
The fact of the matter is that I can be the biggest prick in the world when I choose to be. I am also certain that I offend more than my share of people on a daily basis. (Call it a hobby.) There is also the simple fact that no matter what you do, there will always be people out there who are determined to be miserable. I know of numerous customers who, when my darker nature swims in my brain, I fantasize about chasing down the street with a snow plow.
Still, it honestly is a lot of fun to joke around with most of them.
The thing is, you never know the context of a person that you just happen to run into. So you don't really know WHY they may be in the mood that they are in. A few weeks ago, my Mom & I were out eating. The waitress did a really poor job. She messed up everything. So much so that she even mentioned what a bad job she was doing. We had the right to complain about it all to the management. Instead, I decided to talk to her about it afterwards. I told her that everyone gets a "Mulligan" from time to time, so it was OK. At that point, she started to tear up and told me that her Grandmother's wake had been the previous day. I think you get the idea...
Anyway, let's say you are having a great day. You're out doing whatever. Some guy comes along and informs you that you have bad hair, you're fat, makes a mean joke. How's your day going now?
Let's say you are having a lousy day. You're out doing whatever. Some guy comes along and tells you, "Hey, cool shoes!...I just wanted to say that you have a great smile," or makes you laugh while you are stuck in a long line. How's your day going now?
It doesn't take much either way.
Naughty, bad, sinful, wicked people really liked Jesus a lot. They loved being around him. They heard him speak very clearly & absolutely about judgment and the wages of sin, and how we all need to repent. They also heard him speak about his Father's love for them, and about mercy & grace. More than that, they watched him live it out in their midst by giving himself away. Did I mention that naughty, bad, sinful, wicked people really liked Jesus a lot?
So essentially, Jesus said "Show some initiative, people. Treat others the way YOU want to be treated...regardless of how they treat you." Again, I don't know if I am doing a decent job on this most of the time. I can say this though, I really DO want to look more like Jesus. (Not the beard. It's too itchy in the summers around here.) If there are things that I am doing right, I can't claim that this is/was something that it came naturally or easily. (Trust me on that one.) I fully believe that it is just Jesus doing his thing in me.
I'm a little dubious of some theologians who think that they can explain exactly how the Holy Spirit does what he does in the life of a Believer. What I do know is that any "Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc..." doesn't come to me naturally. It's just Jesus working on my tree.
He's been working on Helen's tree for a long, long time...and it shows.
P.S. Since Helen's nick-name is "Sunny," a couple of songs popped into my head when I was thinking about her. Enjoy!
First up, June Carter Cash.
Next up, Shane McGowan of the Pogues. He was blessed with quite possibly the worst smile in the history of Man. But the song is still fun. (It may help to have ingested a couple of pints before staring at his image for too long)
OK, as a reward for viewing that picture for almost three minutes, you get to go back to the Carter Family and enjoy Mother Maybelle. (Great harmonies.) Seriously, this one will get stuck in your head...and I dare you not to smile. :)