When Jim and I first started dating we used to sit for hours at that old Hobo Joe's and just talk. About everything. About nothing. I used to ask him about cars and he would draw me pictures to explain how the engine worked. We would sit for hours and just 'be'. I not only loved him, he was my friend. We talked, we shared, we dreamed, we planned. You don't see that anymore. Or very rarely. Even in our generation, you go to a restaurant and people are on their phones. Take a bite, scroll down the page. Even in church now you see people on their phones. Yes, a lot are looking at their bible apps, but when that Facebook notification pops up, you can be sure they check it. People are missing the beauty of the world around them because they are either focused on that piece of electronics or looking through the lens. Little children must think that these rectangular things are an extension of their parent's hands. They are always attached. Don't get me wrong, there are many advantages to them. I feel safer when I am driving, knowing I can get help if I break down. The maps app is great since I have a horrible sense of direction. And google is awesome for tracking down some random trivia information. But they are also time suckers. How often have you gotten on to just check your email and next thing you know half an hour has gone by and you're still watching video clips of drunken dancing Bavarians in lederhosen.
I think it's all about being present in the moment. It's about giving this other human being that God created your attention and honoring them by being aware and interested in them. It's often about putting yourself aside for a moment and doing what the bible calls 'esteeming the other'. Philippians 2:3 says this, "If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand." (MSG) We live in a world where the top dog wins, where everyone is out for themselves, where putting others first is often seen as weak. But I know that my Lord says that "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you," John 13:15 (NIV). This was after the Passover feast, the last supper, but before Judas left to betray Jesus. Jesus takes off His outer garments and wraps a towel around his waist. He then began to wash the disciples feet, all of the disciple's feet, even Judas. (Think about that for a moment.) Now this was not some pretty, dainty thing. They didn't slip off their Ferragamo shoes, take off their silk socks and dip their lily white toes in the basin. No, they had been walking long distances in their sandals on the dry and dusty roads of Jerusalem. Roads that were traveled by oxen and other animals. Their feet would be filthy and covered in only God's knows what. Yes, exactly, only God knows. But Jesus, taking off His outer garments, setting aside His rights as Son of God, setting aside His deity becomes a servant, even to the one who would betray Him. He washes off the dirt and muck and lovingly dries their feet with that towel around His waist. He ceremonially and as a precedent shows them how to be a servant to others. He took the dirt from their bodies and carried it on His own. He took the foul excrement, the grime and the filthiness from them in a foreshadowing of what would come in the days ahead. He served all, even the one who took filthy lucre in exchange for betrayal.
Can you even imagine? Most of us, if we even think someone doesn't like us would cross the street to avoid them. I've done my share of ducking behind store displays, abruptly turning and going the other direction; shoot, they saw me! We're not giving them the time of day, let alone doing something kind for them? But we are told to "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you," Luke 6:27-28. (ESV) Or as it so aptly is spelled out in the Message, “To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person. If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously. Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that. If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that’s charity? The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that. I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never—I promise—regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind." (verses 27-36)
I think where most people find this hardest is in their own families. I remember when Jim and I were separated. We had wandered so far away from God, we had gone so far down the path to destruction. Our lives were a mess, our children were a mess. We could only go up from how far we had fallen. I sought the Lord. I fasted and prayed and the Lord told me to show my husband that I had despised and mistrusted love. The kind of love that He had for me. He told me to be like Him, a servant. I am not talking doormat here, I can hear what you are thinking. No, He told me that as I loved my husband, as I showed him unconditional love, that He would change my husband's heart. When he came to see the kids, I would serve him a meal. I would get him a drink. I would be kind, when the world would have said he doesn't deserve it. Maybe he didn't, but I also did not deserve the more than second chance that my Lord gave me. As I ministered love to my husband, we both changed. I lost that mindset that 'I had my rights', gosh darn it. When you have been given new life, that life is no longer yours. You are now an ambassador of Him who saved you. Your only rights are to do right by others. Your only privilege is the freedom and license to do good to others. I know so many think this is old-fashioned, it is not part of the brave new world we live in. The example of Christ, the lessons He left for us never go out of style. The love He showed us does not change with the seasons. It is everlasting and never ending. And we are by His grace and mercy to show it to others.
I know I have gone the roundabout way to say this all, but Christ did not get distracted from what His mission was. He did not take His attention from those that needed Him and give it to what was transient and mundane. He did not, when confronted with the poverty of spirit of those around Him respond by being inattentive and preoccupied. If He was here today, He would put the phone down. He would give His full attention to those given to His care. He would let them know that they are more valuable than a hunk of plastic and glass and microchips. He would be present and available. Wait a minute, He said in John 14:20, "I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you." (NIV) So as His child, as His representative here on earth, He is here, in you. And as such it is your right, your privilege to show others His love. Start in your home, with your spouse, your children and then let it spread out into the world. Just wait and see what happens. Who knows, someone might tweet about your kindness!