It was camping day at school and all the kids were supposed to bring a flashlight. Our kid didn’t have one so I let her borrow mine. At the bus stop, I took a moment to explain to her the importance of taking care of someone else’s stuff when you are borrowing it. That means you have to bring it back exactly as it is. You cannot throw it around or draw on it. It’s not yours. And if it gets broken or lost, you have to replace it.
I gave that little speech in part because the concept of borrowing is hard to understand when you’re six. You think, it’s in my hand’s so it must be mine. I also chose this moment to teach this lesson because, well, to be real honest, I really liked that flashlight. It’s the perfect size to fit in my purse. It’s a beautiful blue color and it has LED lights. I wanted it returned to me in good shape. I was happy to lend it out, as long as I could be assured that it would return unharmed.
This past Sunday, our middle school girl’s class had a lesson on the topic, “Love Your Enemies.” The passage came from Luke 6:27-36.
And I must admit – I felt a good eye roll coming on as I sighed and thought, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Love your enemies. Got it.” It was as if the Devil wanted me to shut my mind down before approaching Scripture. This passage is extremely familiar to me so I felt my mind drifting as I read along…
…Love your enemies…do what is good to those who hate you…Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them…even sinners love those who love them…expect nothing in return.
Wait a minute. Expect nothing in return? I didn’t remember that line in the passage before. So I started over. This time I read it out loud to keep my brain from skimming through the words.
And sure enough, verse 35 says, “But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High. For He is gracious to the ungrateful and evil.”
Wow! When was the last time I did something and truly expected NOTHING in return? I couldn’t even lend a flashlight to a kid without expecting it be brought back in perfect condition. I bought a large bundle of produce and shared with a friend. But I knew that she was going to give me a portion of what she had bought also. I prepared dinner knowing that my husband would thank me and most likely do the dishes. I’m a foster parent but I even force the young child to start sentences with “thank you for ____” every once and a while.
Very rarely am I so selfless in my giving that I know I will receive absolutely NOTHING in return. But this is the radical mind shift that Jesus Himself calls us to have.
Loving people is hard. It is a choice, not a feeling. It doesn’t come naturally. We may have to fake the smile and the appropriate tone of voice. And, most likely, we will get nothing in return – not a smile, a thank you note, or a raise. Our reward is a spiritual, heavenly one. The verse teaches us that we will be children of the Most High.
So we are to be people of mercy just as our Father is merciful. The Lord will give us wisdom and tell us when to give selflessly. The Holy Spirit will prompt us to trust Him fully. And we can rest assured that God will use our obedience to mature us in our faith and to make His glory evident.
How is God calling you to serve Him by selflessly serving others? I’d love to hear from you.