We all have situations arise that just don’t seem fair. Parking tickets because a meeting went too long and when we get back to our car, we find that wonderful little piece of paper tucked under the wiper blade letting us know we are about to part with hard-earned money. Or those moments when heading to an appointment in which you probably should have left a bit earlier and find yourself traveling a little faster than the posted signs, when you look into the rear view mirror to discover a lovely blue flashing light and the opportunity to pull over to the side of the road. While it is true in both illustrations that our activity had in fact warranted the action, it still doesn’t “feel” quite right.
Then there are those moments when life gives us a welcome surprise. A parking spot right in front of where we are heading or perhaps having the person in front of us buy our coffee as we move to the end of the drive through. Sometimes it is extra special, such as having a flight attendant come to your row and give you a new boarding pass moving you up to first class!
I know with the negative events how easy it is to think that life isn’t “fair,” but I wonder, do we also feel it “isn’t fair” when something really good happens, too? Do we bemoan the fact that our blessing was through nothing we did and lift up our hands and thank God for the parking spot, the free coffee or the seat upgrade? I’m not sure that I do…at least not every time something like this happens….well, I did say “Thank you Jesus” for the upgrade, but you get my point. We sometimes have difficulty being as thankful for “unmerited favor” as we should be. But we aren’t all that different from those who hung around Jesus.
Not having grown up in any sort of Christian home – in fact I grew up as a pretty hard-core atheist – I formed a lot of opinions about Christians (by watching and listening to them). I had read the Bible at an early age (you can’t argue something that you know nothing about) and watching people who claimed to follow after Christ led me to believe that being a hypocrite was a requirement for church membership. After all, just take a few quick reads of what Jesus said his followers would be like and compare that to my experience and it was easy to see a problem.
On the night that Jesus partakes of what we call the “last supper” with his disciples, knowing that he would be arrested and executed very soon, Jesus starts into what is to me his most pressing and beautiful of messages. Time is extremely short now and every sentence is going to matter. In John 13:34-35, Jesus says, “(34) So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. (35) Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
I remember thinking to myself at the time, reading about all the Christians fighting with one another (I should mention that I grew up when fighting in Northern Ireland was on the nightly news), church groups were always bashing each other and fighting about various issues, and it seemed to me like none of the churches got along. How in the world could these people be followers of Jesus when he said that we would know them by their love one to another.
The interesting thing is, love for one another begins when we recognize love toward ourselves.
In a story in the Gospel according to Luke, there are some people who are suffering from leprosy, a serious disease that very much places victims as social outcasts.
(11) As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria. (12) As he entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a distance, (13) crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
(14) He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy.
(15) One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” (16) He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan.
(17) Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? (18) Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:11-18 NLT).
If I’m being honest with myself, and I really like to do that, I have to admit that if I was one of those lepers who had been healed, I’m not sure I would be the one who came back to say “thank you” let alone have thrown myself to the ground. Why? I think I would have been too busy enjoying the moment, the healing, the ability to walk amongst my friends again to remember where all good things come from…even if James does remind me that all good gifts come from God. If I am really honest, I struggle with remembering often enough how much God really does for me. But if I slow down just a little and ponder the blessings, the joys, and how he teaches me and leads me in the trials, then I discover within myself a thankful heart. In turn, I then have a more loving attitude towards others because I start to recognize how very much God loves! And because he loves me, I can, by his grace, love others….and so can you.