I used to think I should put needy, grabby people in their place; now I realize that Jesus wants me to give them my place.
Yesterday, during a 30-mile bicycle ride, a friend and I stopped in the shade of a portico of a small church to escape the ravages of 90-degree heat. Just as we pulled in, a person, presumably a church worker and possibly the pastor (for this story, let’s say he’s the pastor), emerged from the building. We greeted him and I asked permission to rest in the shade, belatedly but earnestly. Not only did this person welcome us to rest, he invited us to take a break in the air-conditioned building. We didn’t step inside. But we thanked him for his offer and expressed appreciation for the shade.
After another bike ride, a similar take-before-asking scenario arose. Several of us gathered at a local restaurant. I ordered a sandwich with french fries but couldn’t finish the entire meal. But before I could get a to-go box from the server, one of my companions reached for the fries and ate a few without asking. I had to stop myself and think of how to act graciously. It then occurred to me that I could offer more. So I did. Then I boxed the rest and took it home. There was plenty left. But even if my fellow cyclist took all the food, it wouldn’t have mattered.
These interactions reminded of Jesus’s words in Luke 6:27-30 (World English Bible):
But I tell you who hear: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you. To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer also the other; and from him who takes away your cloak, don’t withhold your coat also. Give to everyone who asks you, and don’t ask him who takes away your goods to give them back again.
As you would like people to do to you, do exactly so to them. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive back as much. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back; and your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind toward the unthankful and evil.
Jesus says that we should give people what they ask for and if someone takes something without asking, we should offer more. This statement seems odd, as if we’re rewarding someone else for bad behavior. But maybe Jesus anticipated bike rides on sweltering afternoons and a shady spot that cooled off two cyclists while the owner or proprietor exited a building. The offer of a cool place would seem to reward our forward, possibly improper behavior. Instead, though, it seemed to build a bridge between Christians who enjoyed a quick chat and perhaps brightened each other’s day.
Now, I know that technically these situations didn’t involve enemies.
However, I should mention that not everyone loves cyclists. Sure, some admire us for our courage and desire to be outdoors in all kinds of weather. But others think we impede traffic for a frivolous hobby, don’t care about other people, and don’t contribute to the economy by paying gasoline and other types of taxes. As an aside, I try to act as an ambassador, waving to all I encounter and being as thoughtful as possible to drivers, not because I don’t have the right to ride on the road but because I understand showing appreciation can be affirming. Even so, some may consider me as an enemy.
Still, whether I’m thought of as a friend or enemy, I think it’s okay to start with offering more to friends, and then move to offering more to enemies, responding as situations arise.
What I admired about the pastor is that he didn’t seem to think twice about his offer while I hesitated, considered, and eventually acted upon the application of Jesus’s message. I’m not saying that kindness comes natural to pastors or church workers and not to regular people like me. But I’m suggesting that I can offer more and see what happens.
What about you? Have you ever received more without asking? Have you offered more? Could you offer more?