“Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self.”
1 Corinthians 13:4, MSG
With the “Big Clean” now finished, you could visit my home at just this moment and make countless assumptions about me. That I clean all the time. That the laundry is always washed, dried, folded, and put away. That my floor is always freshly mopped and carpets vacuumed. That our home is perpetually dust and cobweb-free.
You’d be wrong.
A few years ago, I was deep in the middle of a “Big Clean” when someone stopped by at the last minute. Unfortunately, the big bad secret of a “Big Clean” is that the house always looks worse before it looks better. So, for a large part of the time, even while you are frantically washing and scrubbing, the house looks like a hurricane has blown through.
That’s what my home looked like when our visitor dropped by. Furniture was all moved out so I could vacuum behind it. Toys were scattered around waiting to be sorted into bins. Cleaning products were strewn all over the counter. He could have looked at my home in that moment and thought I was destined to be on the next episode of Hoarders.
But, he’d be wrong.
Fortunately for me, he’s full of grace and hopefully has been in my home often enough to know that we don’t live in a a FEMA-designated disaster zone every day of the year. Not everyone, though, would look at that mess and assume the best about me. Not knowing that I was in the middle of an intense cleaning project, they could look around and assume I’m a first-class slob.
We humans are often so quick to judge one another. Ages ago in my college psychology class, we learned that it’s nearly impossible to overcome a first impression. What people think about you in the first 3 seconds of meeting is likely how they will think of you forever.
The trouble with these first impressions is that they leave very little room for grace. And yet, we form opinions and label people all the time. We push each other into categories.
The truth is, we can be pretty vicious.
In 1 Chronicles 19, we read about what happens when we make faulty assumptions and judgments about others. “Nahash king of the Ammonites died, and his son succeeded him as king. David thought, ‘I will show kindness to Hanun son of Nahash, because his father showed kindness to me.’ So David sent a delegation to express his sympathy to Hanun concerning his father” (1 Chronicles 19:2-3).
Off went David’s men with a message of comfort to the grieving prince. After expressing their sympathy, though, the king’s advisers questioned their true intentions. They asked the king, “Do you think David is honoring your father by sending envoys to you to express sympathy? Haven’t his envoys come to you only to explore and spy out the country and overthrow it?” (1 Chronicles 19:3). Full of mistrust, they humiliated David’s men, shaving off their beards, and cutting off their clothes so they were naked, and then sent them back home full of shame.
Even then, King David didn’t react in anger. He reclothed his men and made accommodations for them to regrow their beards in privacy. In the meantime, the Ammonites themselves, knowing they had acted badly, preemptively allied themselves with Israel’s enemies and traveled out in battle array against Israel. And they fought a war, which they lost, all because they didn’t believe in the genuine sympathy that David expressed through an act of kindness. They assumed the worst about him and made unfair judgments. They were so quick to take offense and so suspicious of others.
Jesus’s standard, on the other hand, is high. He said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:2).
What would happen if we meted out to others the same grace we’d desire from them? What would happen if we gave second chances and allowed people to grow rather than assuming that one mistake was a sign of permanent character flaws? What would happen if we assumed the best about others around us instead of allowing mistrust and suspicion to filter our perceptions of their actions and words? What would happen if we focused on the positives in others and let their faults pass uncommented on?
We would give the same grace we’ve received, sometimes even more. We would show abundant love to others just as Christ has shown to us. Paul wrote about love:
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.
(1 Corinthians 13:5-7, MSG).
Pause a moment on each of those and truly consider whether you’re living out love with those around you, in your home, in your work place, in your church, in your community. Carry those words with you in the next few days and let them guide your interactions.
When you see someone buried in mess, allow love to motivate your response. Can you give them some grace, allowing time to show whether they are perhaps just in the middle of a “Big Clean?” Can you extend a hand of help and bring along your own bucket and mop to help them with the dirty work? Can you give them the words of encouragement that will spur them on to finish the job rather than sitting down too soon, overwhelmed by the mess?
Can you “look for the best?” Can you “never give up?”
That’s what it takes to love like Christ, who poured Himself out for us as an offering even when we were messy and piled over with junk and debris. He loved us that much.
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2011 Heather King