I am selfish in the ownership of “my” Christianity. I feel as if I often try to hog Christ in a way. By hog I mean, keep Him [His love, His grace, His mercies, His joy] to myself, because I am picky about who I believe is worthy to receive Him.
I’ve been thinking about this since I was in the Kansas City airport on Wednesday night and met an airport employee. The airport was pretty slow and I could hear a guy coughing, like really coughing loudly and uncontrollably. I could see him a distance away and noticed he was one of the airport janitors who was on duty. I remembered I had a few cough drops in my bag, so I pulled them out and approached the man, offering the cough drops to him.
Photo courtesy: depth on Flickr (Creative Commons)
Kansas City selfishness
He was grateful, but said no thank you. He went on to explain that the construction debris from some airport renovations and the combination of dry weather with winds had gotten his allergies up pretty badly. He explained how he’s been coughing badly for a few weeks now. Then he said, “And it doesn’t help that I’m a smoker as well….”. We stood there and chatted for a few more minutes about the weather, the effect upon the farmers and other industries and then bid each other farewell.
As I left his presence though, something didn’t sit right with me – I felt unsettled. In thinking about it further, I realized I resented the fact he was a smoker. I’m really ashamed to say this, but I was annoyed that I offered him the cough drops, considering I had come to find out he was a smoker. It was his choice to become a smoker that led to his coughing. Why should he get my cough drops and my help? Those cough drops should go to someone who has made better life choices.
And this is the problem.
I am the unmerciful servant Jesus tells the parable about in the Gospel of Matthew. Think about how often we judge those who have made poor decisions in their lives (they have lied, cheated, knowingly hurt others etc…) and then we hold this judgement against them, allowing it to guide our decision to keep them from joyfully attending our churches, from experiencing the love of Christ, from being showered with our love and affection, from singing alongside us, from being served with no strings attached.
How does the Bible instruct us?
In the Bible, we learn of the instruction of Jesus in this way. Jesus was confronted by the super religious Pharisees about His practice of eating, spending time with and serving “sinners”. In response, Jesus said to them:
And He still says this to us today.
At the end of the day, I don’t really think it matters what choices have led people to specific life circumstances. The choices others have made doesn’t direct how much grace or mercy they should receive or whether or not we should serve them with all our hearts. All that matters is the love of Christ radiating through us to overcome our judgements.
I can make the choice to be like Christ, in that He may not love the actions of the person, but He always loves the person. And I believe that is the final word which should rule all circumstances we are faced with.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with pouring out free mercy and love to all, regardless of their decisions?