Friday, October 12, 2007

One more gift

Grand Sweep Daily Reading: Luke 4, 5, 6

Luke 6:27-31 (NIV)

27 [Jesus said,] “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

Good morning!

How difficult is it to forgive someone when they’ve hurt you? I find it is sometimes it is easier to forgive strangers than it is to forgive my own family. We hold the people in our family in high regard, most of the time. Still, we tend to lash out irrationally at the people we love the most. Why is that?

Are you living in an enemy camp today? Do you feel like you are being taken advantage of by a spouse, a child, or a parent? What do you do with feelings of anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness?

One of my all-time favorite childhood books is Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree. This is a tale of a boy, a tree, and relationship. The tree gives and gives and gives some more, to help the boy grow into manhood. He provides food to eat, shade for rest, and a listening ear. Whenever the child asks the tree for anything, the tree finds a way to give of himself for the boy’s happiness and well-being. Eventually the boy takes everything the tree has to offer until all that is left is a stump rooted firmly in the ground. When the boy returns to the tree as an old man, after years of selfish living, he asks the tree if he could simply sit on its stump to think and rest. The tree, who had given everything to the boy, is happy to be able to offer him one more gift.

Jesus teaches us to be the givers of one more gift. He says that we should be willing to love those who do not love us; to show compassion and respect to the ones who least deserve it. Jesus encourages his followers to treat people the way you would want to be treated, because your Father in heaven will forgive you if you are willing to forgive others. It’s a tall order to fill. Some days I’m a little better at it than others. Yet, in every circumstance, I know there is not enough good inside my heart to love and forgive on my own. I have to ask for supreme help.

It is a conscious choice. We know that when we give our lives away, we should expect nothing in return. Sometimes our random acts of kindness go virtually unnoticed. It is easy to become cynical and apathetic when we try to extend our hands to a loved one, or a neighbor, or even someone at church, only to be rejected, or even worse, ignored. Christ calls us to a higher standard of daily living. He not only encourages us to go against our human instincts, He expects us to give of ourselves freely.

When I started working full-time, I struggled with a servant’s heart. I would work really hard and my efforts seemed to go unnoticed and unappreciated. I used to come home seething and spewing about this awful work environment. My husband reminded me of just how important it is to be a willing and humble servant at home, at work, and even at play. He taught me how to love unconditionally, and offer everything I have to the task I have been given to do. I will always be grateful to Jeff for this gift. He could not have given me anything more valuable or wonderful in life. Because Jeff loves me unconditionally and with a servant’s heart, I have experienced the living Christ through him.

Today, I’m planning to go out there again and give my all. I know what I’m doing may go unnoticed. I realize that sometimes when I risk loving others unconditionally, I’m going to get hurt in the process. This is the time I ask the Father for an extra measure of Christ’s love in my heart. The Apostle Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ, which strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13). If Jesus Christ can forgive the soldiers who physically nailed him to the cross and forgive me all my sins, then I need to return that love by loving others through Him.

Grace and peace,

Deb Spaulding

Faith UMC - St. Charles, MO

Pray for: courage to ask the Lord to give you a heart of compassion. It takes a concerted and determined effort to love our neighbors the way we would like to be loved. We must learn to forgive, and give, and expect nothing in return. When we purposefully choose to love, we emulate Christ’s love to a world that desperately needs Him now.


© Copyright 2007, Deb Spaulding

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