“Words kill, words give life; they are either poison or fruit-you choose”.
Proverbs 18:21 (The Message)
“Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue”
James 1:19 (The Message)
I wasn’t aware that after crossing the border into Canada that I would be surprised by one seemingly small difference in the landscape. I had assumed Canada to be similar to the U.S.A. as Canada is just a few hundred miles away. It took me quite a while to realize it, but the difference was that there were no messages along the highway. Literally no billboards.
We drove from Michigan into Canada and the change was instantaneous. It sound inconsequential but I had a small level of anxiety about it. I wondered, how am I to know where the nearest gas station is? Where will we eat if we’re hungry? No one, or no messages were persuading me! What will I look at now? How will I learn about the cities that I am approaching if I don’t have these messages to look at on the highway?
The messages we hear and see on a daily basis have a tremendous impact on our lives. We are used to them. Often they go unchallenged and unchanged. In the Bible, in the book of James, words (messages) are likened to a rudder on a ship having the power to turn the entire vessel. Isn’t it true that our actions also speak too? Some would say “actions speak louder than words”. If my words have so much power then it must be true that my actions do as well. James also makes a connection to action by saying our faith is dead if it is not accompanied by action. He says “what good is it” if we see someone in need and do nothing. I like how James says things because he seems like a common sense kind of guy.
Jesus tells a story about a traveler who is left on the side of the road beaten and half dead. Two men, a Priest and Levite pass by the man and do nothing. These two men represented the religious culture of the day ( think of them as people who if Jesus was telling the story today would be the folks who go to church). The third man was a Samaritan man. He represented a class of people whom the Jews went out of their way to avoid. When Jesus tells this story, the Samaritan is the one who demonstrates compassion towards the traveler. He brings him to safety and pays for him to be taken care of.
Jesus tells this parable to a man who asked how he would receive eternal life. This man was wondering what the bottom line was. What is it really that you are teaching here Jesus? Jesus’ answer is this to love God and love your neighbor. He turns to the man and asks which person in the story loved his neighbor. The man’s answer was “the one who showed mercy”. The man who showed godly kindness was the one who was marginalized by the religious culture.
Jesus tells us that we are to show basic human kindness indiscriminately and no one is unqualified to participate and be included in this activity. This love demonstration. Unfortunately, in ways we may or may not even realize we segregate whom we will just tolerate and who we will love. We make judgment calls not based on personal knowledge but on biased stereotypes. We jump to conclusions and create separations when Jesus himself is calling us to love one another!
The messages we send by our actions and the things we say are important! I wonder if we can use this as a guide for how we show basic human kindness to one another. Is this what it looks like to really love those whom we encounter wherever we may go?
1 Corinthians 13
Evaluate your love and ask yourself?
Am I demonstrating patience?
What about kindness? Am I nice? Only to their face?
Do I demonstrate good-will towards this person?
Is my relationship conditional upon something? What about my love? Can I be counted faithful by this person?
Do I fly off the handle and lose my cool or am I gentle?
Do I show self control?
Look at what the Message version says!
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Who is it that God has put into your life that when it comes right down to it you don’t know how to love? Think about why that might be and start sending the right message!