You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you. – John Bunyan
There’s a man in our church we’ll call Jim. He is middle-aged, mentally handicapped, and mute. He attends almost every Sunday and spends most of the service making noises and walking back and forth refilling his tea. He has a large bump on his head that looks like a tumor, but really it’s just swollen from self-inflicted blows to his head. Two weeks ago, mid-sermon, he violently hit his head and picked up a chair and threw it at the row of teenage boys nearest him.
Yesterday, our church threw him a party.
There was a huge cake, a few presents, potluck lunch, and a joyous Happy Birthday song. Emails and texts were sent out mid-week from the pastor so people knew it wasn’t an ordinary after church meal, but was a special occasion. An occasion that only happens once a year. It was Jim’s birthday.
I didn’t plan the party nor do I know Jim well personally, but I couldn’t help being humbled to be part of a loving community and convicted as to what type of party-planner I am.
Would I throw a party to show off my cake pop skills?
Would I invite guests based on popularity?
Would I choose the trendiest location?
Would I spend hours making party favors to impress my guests?
Jim won’t be the center of attention. He doesn’t have thousands of friends on Facebook. He’s different, and outside those walls he is probably ostracized. He’s overweight, unable to communicate, and doesn’t fit in. According to the world’s ways, he’s just the type of person we shouldn’t waste time on. There’s nothing he can do for us. He doesn’t add to our prestige or get us invited to cool places.
He’s not someone to be viewed as a “project” since there’s no likelihood his condition will improve. He’s not a single mom whose home we can renovate, and bless her and feel good ourselves in the process. He can’t say thank you. In fact, I’m not even sure he can understand most of what’s said around him.
The world says, “I don’t like you because you don’t fit in.”
God says, “I love you and purposefully broke the mould when I made you.”
Doing something for nothing
The church didn’t treat Jim special because he’s a big tither. He’s not an ace evangelist who brings in seekers through the door each weekend. He doesn’t mow the elderly’s lawns or operate in a spiritual gift that benefits the whole church. In fact, often he’s downright disruptive.
The world says, “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”
God says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Even if he can’t repay you. Even if he can’t say thank you. Even if he doesn’t know the good you’ve done. Even if you don’t get to write it off at the end of the year or throw ice on yourself to show you’ve donated to charity. “When you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” We give to bless another, not to feel upright and self-satisfied.
Seeing the unseen
I want my children to see those others ignore. To make that happen, I need to see those I’d rather ignore. Those people who make me uncomfortable in their suffering. Those people who put me at a loss for words. People who may look funny, act funny, talk funny, and who are made fun of by others.
I pray I can raise my children to be strong, wise, loyal, and compassionate. To be adults who aren’t so busy thinking about their next designer purse or weekend away that they can’t see the outcasts around them. That in the midst of normal everyday life, they’ll take the time to treat others special. It’s one thing to treat someone special who’ll treat you special back. It’s another thing to love someone who will never respond.
The world says, “Look out for number one.”
God says, “The last shall be first, and the first last.”
There’s nothing wrong with pretty parties and nice things. It’s about our hearts. Do we ignore those who don’t fit and who can’t do anything for us? Or do we throw parties – figuratively or literally – for them just because God thinks they’re special. Because God loves them. Because He made them.
Can we show God’s love without strings? Without expectation? And without agenda? Personally, I can’t yet. But I’d sure like to try.
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