Over the past few days I have been writing about Dave Early’s book 14 Secrets to Better Relationships. First, we NEED relationships. God made us for relationships…but how do we ensure that we have good, satisfying, godly relationships? “Accept one another…just as Christ accepted you.” Romans 15:7. AND “Love one another: As I have loved you…” John 13:34 ( AS Jesus loved… the standard to strive for!)
Now today our verse and our thought is: “Honor one another above yourself.” Romans 12:10. Oooooooohhhhhh that is SO SO Good. But what does that mean? The first example that Dave Early gives is of Agnes Bojaxhiu. Who the heck is that you wonder? We know her as Mother Teresa. WHY does the whole world know her name? Why is she so loved and honored…even made a Saint? It isn’t because she played NBA basketball or NFL football or shook her booty with a ferocious face during half-time of the Superbowl or won American Idol or The Voice or put a three-minute skit about using the toilet on You Tube and it went viral. Her “celebrity” had nothing to do with what our culture considers impressive…or with her desire to be famous. “Mother Teresa’s global impact flowed from the way she saw people. She did not see the people she served as wrapped in filth, filled with disease, disfigured by sores, or covered with flies. She saw something else. When asked how she could love such filthy, stinking, sick, helpless, hopeless people, she simply answered, ‘Each one of them is Jesus in disguise.'” Mother Teresa was a role model for the world because she embodied what we are called to do. We all know what we should do…but she DID it! She didn’t just talk the talk like I am doing right now…SHE WALKED the WALK. As my pastor Chris said in his devotional this morning…”To live, when it’s good times or bad, is to believe God at his word and then to…put your money where your mouth is and live what you say you believe.” We want to be like Mother Teresa because she is one of the RARE examples in our life time of a person living what they say they believe.
WOW. WOW. WOW. WOW.
This is a troubling idea…but it CAN NOT be ignored. The following passage is not just a random story about sheep and goats…it is about all of the opportunities that we are given to help…do we look away? Do we wait for somebody else to do something? Do we do the bare minimum required so that we can tell people what we did…so that we can feel good/ better about ourselves and look good to others too?
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”Matthew 25:31-46
I don’t think that Jesus would have told this story…and been so clear about what we did or didn’t do and the consequences of our generosity or lack thereof if we were just to ignore the story because it is too inconvenient or unpleasant to worry about. We believe this story, right? Are we living what we believe?
But what else? Other than take care of people who need help…what else can we do in our interactions to show people that we honor them?
I had a principal in high school…Mr. McAfee at Plano East Senior High in Plano Texas. He was a tall, distinguished and charismatic man. He had a presence that once you met him and knew who he was it was unlikely that you would ever forget him. But it wasn’t so much about who he was, his role of authority and important position… or how he looked. It was ALL about how he made you feel. A famous quote by Maya Angelou says, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” That is right. Exactly. Mr. McAfee was the principal of a Senior High school that was like a small college campus…there were 986 students in MY graduating class! And Mr. McAfee knew everyone. He knew something about them…did they play a sport? Sing in the choir? play in the band? raise a pig for FFA? go to the mall last weekend. I DON’T KNOW what my fellow students did…there were some people I had never met or even SEEN untill the day of graduation. But Mr. McAfee knew us all.
Dave Early gives an example: “Whenever I saw the first man, he always smiled, always said my name, and always said something affirming to me. I walked away after talking with him feeling valued by him and better about myself. I noticed that he treated everyone this way. He honored people…my other colleague was not someone you liked to see coming. He usually made a dig, a cut, or a cute comment. He could be belittling, condescending, and patronizing…When I walked away after talking with him, I usually felt depreciated or worn down. He treated everyone this way. Nothing builds a relationship more than an atmosphere of esteem and honor. Nothing erodes it more than a climate of disrespect. When a person breathes an atmosphere of respect and regard, others respond. People respect people who respect them. If you want to have better relationships, learn to honor others.”
Ever heard “do to others as you would have them do to you”? Jesus tells us to do that! It is known as “The Golden Rule”. It is an ethical code for morality across all religions and cultures. I often wonder what would happen in our homes if we ALL spoke to the people that we live with as civilly as we do strangers…if we took the same care in choosing our words and gave the same level of attention that we give to clients or the bank teller or the preacher or the person we are giving our dry cleaning to…
I had a couple of HVAC guys out to service my furnace the other day. We were laughing and cutting up…talking aboout all of my pets and their fur in the filter and about all of my kids and about their kids…just life. And one of the guys started telling about a very wealthy family (that I just happen to know)…about their huge house that is not warm and inviting…and about how the “lady of the house” treats the Service men like they are scum. “If I was clean-shaven and had on a suit and she thought I was ‘somebody’ she would be nice as pie…but if I walked in there lookin like this with my shirt and hands all dirty she would treat me like I was nobody.”
What makes a person “somebody”? That could be a huge conversation in itself, but I want to answer in the words of a Brad Paisley country music song: “The World ~ To the teller down at the bank, You’re just another checking account. To the plumber that came today, You’re just another house. At the airport ticket counter, You’re just another fare. At the beauty shop at the mall, Well you’re just another head of hair. Well that’s alright, that’s ok. If you don’t feel important, honey, All I’ve got to say is To the world, You may be just another girl. But to me, Baby, you are the world. To the waiter at the restaurant, You’re just another tip. To the guy at the ice cream shop, You’re just another dip. When you can’t get reservations ‘Cause you don’t have the clout, Or you didn’t get an invitation ‘Cause somebody left you out. That’s alright, that’s ok. When you don’t feel important, honey, All I’ve got to say is to the world, You may be just another girl. But to me, Baby, you are the world. You think you’re one of millions, But you’re one in a million to me. When you wonder if you matter, baby, Look into my eyes, And tell me, can’t you see…You’re everything to me. That’s alright, that’s ok. When you don’t feel important, honey, All I’ve gotta say is to the world, You may be just another girl. But to me, Baby, you are the world.”
What if everybody that came into our presence today we made feel like they were important? More important than anything else we have going on…at least for a few minutes…what if we give them our undivided attention? What would happen if we truly began to honor people …”give precedence to…defer to…revere”…In Galations 6:7 we are told that a man reaps what he sows. Are we sowing good will? Are we noticing…appreciating? affirming? asking others their opinion? …making the “other” whether it is your child, spouse, coworker…the waitress…the mechanic…the bag stuffer at the grocery store…when they are in your presence do you see them because they are somebody? Do they KNOW that for the few minutes or hours or years that you have with them that they are one in a …how many people are on the planet? They are one of a kind. Do we make them feel that special? What would happen if we did? What would happen if someone made us feel just so special?
That is honor.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians 2:3-4. Can we do that?
Sam Cooke croons..”Don’t know much about history. Don’t know much biology. Don’t know much about a science book. Don’t know much about the french I took. But I do know that I love you. And I know that if you love me too. What a wonderful world this would be.” Love, Accept, Honor…indeed what a wonderful world this would be. Could be? It takes the first step.
We are starting to know what to do…how it looks… The more we find out about Jesus and God’s Word and the necessity of changing our heart by loving God and loving each other, the less excuse we have for why we keep doing things the same selfish way. I want to be better. I know I won’t be perfect, but I’ll never get better if I don’t at least practice…
There is a wrong way to practice – my way. And a right way – God’s way. “Practice doesn’t make perfect…Perfect practice makes perfect.” It can’t hurt to try, but it can hurt a lot if I don’t.