When I was in school, there was a game that schools were teaching kids called “Lifeboat”. Basically you were the captain of a ship that was at sea and it was going down. There was one lifeboat, but there wasn’t enough room for everyone. They gave you a rundown on everyone on board. Some were young, some were old, some had questionable past, some had noble professions, some had medical conditions, some were addicts, etc. You were then to choose to see how your morals or values guided you. My parents, and a lot of Christians were against this type of education and wanted us to respect all people and value their life. I don’t remember the game lasting very long in schools, but I do remember them reiterating the Golden Rule of treating others the way you want to be treated.
Both the Old and New Testaments teach us to love our enemies and to treat them well. The word enemy here is someone who is hostile toward you or who opposes you. That can be tough to do. Usually if someone is hostile toward me, my first reaction is to attack them back or go on the defensive. I’ve always tried to keep Proverbs 15:1 in mind when someone is angry at me, and give them a soft answer. Another thing I try to do to de-escalate the situation is to try to understand their side and point of view by asking questions gently. Most people simply want to be heard and understood. They feel like attacking or yelling is the way to do that. Our response has the ability to add gasoline to that raging fire or water.
Finally, if all else fails, value them and their life. Remember that they were made in the image of God as much as you were. Romans 12:16 says, “Live happily together in a spirit of harmony, and be as mindful of another’s worth as you are your own” (TPT). When we argue our points by devaluing someone else and their points. It’s like tossing them overboard in the game of Lifeboat. It’s telling them that they don’t matter and you and your points are worth more than theirs. As believers, we must learn how to live in harmony across denominational, racial, ethnical and personal belief lines. We must value each other as brothers and sisters in Christ even though we may not see eye to eye. We are not each other’s enemy, and our battle is not against flesh and blood. Each of us have the same worth to God and He paid the same price for their sin as He did for yours. When we learn to value others as ourselves, we create an ability to live in harmony.
When we go through difficult times, we look to family and friends to be there for us. We need them to be our strength and to hold us up. Imagine though, what it would be like in the darkest time of your life if your family and friends turned on you. Imagine if they insulted you instead of offering you hope. Imagine if they accused you of doing something against God instead of praying for you. Your agony in the situation would be multiplied.
Job was facing just that. As he cried out to God, his friends mocked him and chastised him. In Job 19:13-19 he shares his struggle. He said, ““My relatives stay far away, and my friends have turned against me. My family is gone, and my close friends have forgotten me. My servants and maids consider me a stranger. I am like a foreigner to them. When I call my servant, he doesn’t come; I have to plead with him! My breath is repulsive to my wife. I am rejected by my own family. Even young children despise me. When I stand to speak, they turn their backs on me. My close friends detest me. Those I loved have turned against me” (NLT).
I can’t imagine having to go through my most difficult times without the support of friends and family. What happened to Job still happens to people today. They are left to go through struggles on their own. Their friends turn their backs in them when life gets tough. Their hope and strength fade away without support. As believers, we must support people who are struggling. We must offer them the hope that is within us. We must hold them up in prayer when they don’t have the strength or will to pray for themselves.
Each of us know that the Golden Rule is to do unto others as we would have others do unto us. We need to treat people the way we want to be treated. We need to visit the sick in the hospital, comfort those who are broken, defend the defenseless, guard the unguarded, offer water to the thirsty, and food to the hungry. In Matthew 25:40, Jesus said when we do these things for the least of these we are doing it for Him.
As Christians, we can’t be like Job’s friends who were self-righteous and pointed out the faults in other people. We need to be like the ones Jesus talked about in Mathew 25. We are to be the ones who offer help to those in need. We are to pick up those who’ve been knocked down. We are to give another chance to those who have used up all their chances. We are to offer grace to those who least deserve it because that what Jesus did. Look around you today. Who is hurting? Who is broken? Who is down an out? Go to them and be what they need. You are doing it for the Lord as much as you’re doing it for them.
I love the idea of paying it forward. I always smile when I read a post on Facebook that is thanking an unknown person for buying their coffee or lunch. I think those actions and posts inspire others to do similar things for other people. At work, I challenge new employees to do one thing for someone else each day. It can be as little a gesture as opening a door from them to letting them go first in the check out line to buying their lunch to wherever their mind leads them. The point is to train them to open their eyes to the needs of others.
Human nature has always look inward rather than outward. To break that habit and to begin looking to the needs of others, you have to challenge yourself to look up from your own life. Each of us have enough things going on in our lives that make us too busy, too poor, and too blinded to help others. We have excuses lined up as to why we don’t have the time or resources to help someone out.
The truth is, that simple gestures, like opening the door for someone, cost you no money or time. They are things you can easily do, but make a difference in others. Do you remember the Golden Rule? “Do for others what you want them to do for you” (Matt 7:12 GNB). If it’s a gesture you would appreciate, then do it for someone else first. Pay it forward so that you begin the chain reaction of people doing something good for someone else. The Golden Rule is a simple concept really, but it requires us to think beyond ourselves and to be the initiator in positive actions.
Decades after Jesus taught the Golden Rule, Paul was writing to Titus, a leader in the church, about the behaviors Christians should exhibit. In chapter 3 verse 8 he says, “I want you to give special emphasis to these matters, so that those who believe in God may be concerned with giving their time to doing good deeds, which are good and useful for everyone.” Doing good for others should be part of the DNA of all believers. It should be our concern to find things to do for others that are both good and useful.
So today, be on the lookout for people who you can do a good deed for. You’ll be surprised at how big a small gesture can be to some people. You’ll feel good in the process and who knows, it may even open up a door to share your faith or to pray for someone. Start today. Begin making an effort to look up from your life and you’ll find that opportunities abound for you to do good deeds for others. It’s an easy and effective way to be the hands and feet of Jesus in a world that desperately needs His presence.
I’m sure that Robin Williams’ death came as a shock to you as much as it did to me. How could someone so funny and entertaining lose a fight with depression? How could someone who brought so much happiness to others not be able to find happiness himself? These are the questions I asked when I heard the news. The truth is that he, like so many people, fought an unseen enemy in an arena that no one else can enter. He tried to deal with it the best ways he knew how. Most of which probably weren’t healthy or productive. We can sit and judge or we can watch and learn.
When I saw others post their favorite movie quotes of his, the one that came to my mind was fitting for the way he died. In the movie “Patch Adams”, his character, who was a doctor, said, “You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I guarantee you, you’ll win, no matter what the outcome.” So many times we look past the person and only see their disease, their sin or their faults. We spend so much time attacking the defect that we forget we are dealing with a person. We like to say, “Love the sinner. Hate the sin,” but too often we can’t see the sinner for the sin.
It’s hard to love someone when we are so focused on the thing we hate. When I read the way Jesus was in the New Testament, I see someone who had compassion for the individual person. He saw their sickness, their defect and their sin and He had compassion. Instead of pointing out the sin or disease, He looked at the person and showed love. He knew that when it comes to sin, you treat the person, not the sin. He knew that showing hate for the sin did more harm than good in most instances. Yes, He overthrew some tables a couple of times. Those were when He was upset at the very ones acting in His name. You never read where He got angry at a sinner.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t call sin “sin”. I’m saying we should be quicker to show compassion and love for others than we are to point out their sin. We don’t know what they have been through or what they are facing. What we do know is that we serve a God who forgives no matter what we or they have done. The only way they will see that is if we learn to show love to the sinner and treat the person not the sin. What would happen if we acted out the Golden Rule as if we believed it? You and I can’t forgive sin, so why do we try to treat it? We can however love the sinner, so why not do that instead?
So many people in this world need hope. So many are fighting unseen battles. Too many lose those battles without knowing there is someone who loves them and there is a God who can forgive and heal them. They’re afraid to come out because of what others might say or how they might be treated. If they knew that they would be shown love as a person and not treated as the disease or sin they have, they would be more willing to be open about it. They would get to see God through our actions of love and find forgiveness and healing from their sin. We could in essence start a revival through love. It has to start sometime, why not now? It has to start somewhere, why not with you and me?
I believe in the power of words and in paying it forward. I was excited to see a news story out of North Carolina that combined the two. A family went to dinner at a pizza restaurant and their child with special needs started to get rowdy. People started looking and I’m sure it was embarrassing for the parents. A waitress walked over with tears in her eyes and said, “Another customer has paid for your dinner and wanted me to give you this note.” It read, “God only gives special children to special people.”
At a moment when these parents were upset themselves over the situation they couldn’t control, someone else saw through the temporary and gave them hope through words. Proverbs 25:11 in the Message says, “The right word at the right time is like a custom-made piece of jewelry.” The customer who sent over the note had no idea that this family needed those words at that moment like they did. The mom said, “Little did he know what struggles we had been facing lately and this was surely needed at that moment.”
The mom also said that this one gesture outweighed all the other rude and negative comments they face every day. Proverbs 18:21 says that the power of life and death are in the tongue. Each one of us wields a powerful weapon. How we choose to use it matters. The easy thing in this situation is to roll your eyes and ask why they brought the child into a public restaurant in the first place. I’m sure most of the patrons in that restaurant fit into that category. Thank God for one person who had the boldness to not only say the right words at the right time, but purchased their meal too.
That’s where paying it forward comes into play. I believe paying it forward is scriptural. Most of us had to memorize the Golden Rule as a child: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. There probably isn’t anyone reading this who wouldn’t love to be at dinner and to have the server come over and say, “Someone has paid for your meal.” We would love that, but have we done it for someone else? The Golden Rule doesn’t say, “Do unto others as they have done unto you.”
You may not be in a position to buy someone’s meal, but you are in a position to speak life into someone. If you see someone having a difficult day, give them an encouraging word. If you see someone struggling where you’ve been, offer a helping hand and words of advice. A saying I heard a while back still rings true. It says, “When you share in someone’s sadness, sorrow is divided. When you share in their joy, it is multiplied.” We all have days where we would love to have our emotional load divided with someone. Why not pay that forward today and help someone else out?
If you’d like to read the article I’m referencing, click here.