One morning, oh, about 10 or 11 years ago, I was running a bit late for work. I left in such a hurry, I forgot that I had taken my debit card out of my wallet. There was no cash in there either, but that was par for the course.
Anyway, after I got into my Jeep and had driven down the driveway, I noticed an index card someone had put under my windshield wiper: some kind of note, I guess. But, as I say, I was in a hurry, so I decided to just leave it there and drive on. I’d see what it was when I got to work.
Then, when I got to the outskirts of downtown Indianapolis, it suddenly began to rain. And I mean buckets of rain – a real deluge. So, I set my windshield wipers to full speed and they were barely keeping up. This, of course, dislodged the index card, which then became stuck to the windshield directly in my line of sight.
Some mornings everything goes wrong.
As a result of these distractions, I failed to immediately notice the traffic ahead of me slowing to a stop. When I did notice, I slammed on the brakes of course, but the road was slick from the rain and I slammed – ever so gently – into the car in front of me.
The car pulled into a parking lot just ahead and I followed. We exchanged insurance information and waited for the police, who came and made a report. That was the end of that. (Except for when they sued me two years later, but that’s another story). I never did discover what, if anything, was written on the index card.
When all was said and done, I noticed that one of my tires was mostly flat. To this day I don’t understand the physics behind that. There was no puncture. Anyway, I was right next to a gas station, with an air pump, so I got it over there. The machine took quarters.
I had no quarters – no cash, no debit card, no cell phone. And I’m late for work. I can’t risk driving the Jeep with such low tire pressure. I have no way to work. No way to get home. No way to let my boss know why I’m late and getting later. The rain and the distress of the morning have turned me into a disheveled sight.
So, there I am, transformed in an instant from an employed husband and father of two with a house and a mortgage, into a bum with a ridiculous sob story begging for change from passersby at a gas station.
I felt rather a fool telling my story and begging for change only to be ignored by everyone I asked both in and out of the gas station. Most ignored me completely – not even making eye contact. One to whom I did manage to speak gave me quite a look of incredulity, actually rolling his eyes. I was not believed and I was not helped. For me, they could not spare a dime, as they purchased their coffees and gasoline.
Realizing I was making something of a nuisance of myself, I decided to go elsewhere to beg. Across the street was a bar just opening up. I walked in. And there, I was listened to. The bartender opened up the till and gave me some quarters, and all was well. Thus ended my career as a beggar.
One thing to learn from all this is that, if we’re going somewhere together, you may want to offer to drive. But another thing to learn is to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and to “give without expecting repayment” (Luke 6:31, 35a).
Do you want to be taken at your word? Then take others at their word, even if your suspicions are aroused. In Christ, we may become as guileless as children – as innocent as doves, even while we are at the same time as cunning as serpents (Matt 10:16).
You might need others to take you at your word quite suddenly, as I learned from experience – even if they don’t know you and have no reason to trust you – even regarding an unbelievable situation.
That’s another thing, just because you don’t believe a beggar’s story (and I’ve certainly heard some whoppers) doesn’t mean you can’t offer to help. “The Most High is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish” (Luke 6:35b). We can be kind to the unbelievable, to the liar and the thief, to the drug addict and the prostitute.
We might be surprised to find that it’s unexpected folks who are kind to us in our time of need. I was quite struck by the fact that the straitlaced types buying gas at the gas station wouldn’t help me, but the folks at the bar, thought by some to be of less moral quality, were the ones who helped me. They gave without expecting anything in return.
Let’s let go of the question of what’s in it for us. God doesn’t show us kindness, mercy, and love for his sake, but for ours. And he commands us to do the same. Far from limiting our loving-kindness to those who can give us something in return, Jesus teaches us to love even our enemies. Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you, give to everyone who asks, give even to the thief, give without expecting anything in return (Luke 6:27-30, 35).
“Be merciful,” he commands us, “even as your Father is merciful.” And this is the point, really. He is commanding us to be like God, which we become by his grace. God is kind to the unkind and loving to the unloving. He is kind and loving to us. Let us be kind and loving to each other, also to our enemies, real and imagined. Only when there is not one excluded from our love are we in Christ.