The other day I told my Bible study class, I don't think Christians have the right to be offended by people outside the church, and I meant it. Obviously it sparked some conversation, and we batted that thought around for a while.
But I ran into a situation where I actually put into play the very ethics that I profess that we Christians should hold to as we walk through life.
I was with my wife and stepdaughter visiting our "Grandma" at her old-folks home. She has a nice room in a place where many elderly live - all with varying degrees of health and declining abilities. Several of the residents hang out in the front lobby, sitting in chairs or standing by the front windows looking out at the day. We usually say a pleasant "hello" to most as we pass by, sometimes stopping to say a bit more to those we've gotten to know a little better than others.
As I was waiting by the front doors for my wife to sign us out of the facility, an elderly lady with a scrunched up face (I think she's had a stroke), was standing with her walker looking at me. She said something I couldn't quite hear, so I walked closer and , "I'm sorry, dear, I couldn't hear you."
She looked me in the eye and repeated herself, in a voice garbled the way stoke victim's voices sometimes are: "You're way too heavy", she said.
It was a statement of fact. I am, indeed, way too heavy.
"You need to go on a diet", she continued.
Now, everyone knows it is not politically correct to call attention to someone's weight, regardless of our thoughts on it, or how true or correct our thoughts are. We've been taught in our culture, its wrong to comment.
But, she did, and there it is. So now what do I do with that?
Within the space of about 2 seconds, I had several thoughts go through my mind.
"How dare she?"
"She's old and her opinion is useless, anyway."
"She knows nothing about me or my life."
"Really, lady? Did you seriously go there?"
But thankfully my New Self, born of the Spirit, held sway with my heart, and I leaned close to her ear, since I do know she is somewhat hard of hearing, and said,
"Thank you, dear. You're right, I am way to heavy and do need to go on a diet", and I smiled at her, and in that moment, truly loved her.
I had a choice to make. I could assume she was a snarky old lady who thinks fat people at gluttonous laggards. I could assume she was a mean old lady who just enjoyed pointing out people's flaws. I could choose to be hurt by her words, and strike back in the way life has taught me, protecting my ego and my "positive self image" by putting her down, and elevating myself. I could have responded with the ways of the world.
Or, I could give her the benefit of every doubt, do as Romans says and consider her 'better' than myself, see the log in my own eye before trying to remove the splinter from her eye, and consider that perhaps, just perhaps, she was concerned in her way for my health. Perhaps she'd had a family member die from complications of obesity or diabetes. Perhaps she used to be heavy and knows the struggles that come with being overweight. Perhaps she just wanted to talk and couldn't think of another way to start a conversation.
Perhaps. So I chose to run my response through the filter of love:
"Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance." (emphasis mine)As I stood next to her, and told her she was right, she smiled a crooked half-faced smile, and her eyes lit up a bit. She nodded and said something like, "you work on that, you'll feel better". I couldn't quite understand her every word, but that's definitely the jist of it.
It is my assertion that we, Christians, don't have the right to be offended by people who are outside the kingdom of God, in the way that we take offense and defend our sensibilities in the culture. Our only job is to love people, fully, to the extent that Jesus loved us. Jesus was not offended by you or I when we were outside the Kingdom, and He gave his life for us. He loved me even before I was cleansed by His blood.
We should love others even before they are cleaned up and made acceptable, and even when they poke us in our tender emotional spots. Jesus did, and they poked Him to the point of dying.
Just my thoughts today. Agree or disagree?