Today I rediscovered something that I learned the hard way when I was 17 years old and about to graduate high school: first of all, people can be mean. But most important, love and forgive your neighbor, your brother and even your enemies always.
A few weeks before the end of my senior year, I went to a CVS to pick up some makeup. After paying for my items, I went to walk out of the store, but I set off the security alarm. Confused and not sure what to do, as always, I took a few steps back and made sure it was okay for me to proceed. After all, the woman who had just rung me up was still at the cash register and I didn’t think I had any items with security tags on them. To me, it was no big deal.
But this older woman didn’t seem to think the best of the situation like I did. She accused me of stealing and told me that if I didn’t empty my oversized purse, she’d call the manager to come to the front of the store. I told her over and over that I didn’t have anything in my bag, but she continually said to me, “if you don’t just confess now, this will get worse.” Needless to say, it was the most horrible experience of my teenage life. Although I hadn’t stolen anything, I was scared to death that something was going to happen to me! Most of all, I was really upset at this woman for jumping to conclusions and thinking the worst of me, whom she probably saw as some teenage brat trying to steal hair color or something. Anyway, she went through my purse and found nothing, so she let me go. Later that night at home, I discovered that I had a magnetic chip clip in my purse that had set the stupid alarm off.
So why am I sharing this seemingly insignificant anecdote? That night I came home crying and thinking to myself, “why are people SO rude and just plain mean?” I was a naive little high schooler who hadn’t yet discovered how mean the world can be. I, little goody-two-shoes Jen who had never told a lie, would NEVER have stolen anything from anyone, yet this woman thought the absolute worst of me. I just couldn’t fathom it. But then I realized that I myself was judging the woman who had judged me.
You see, she thought I was stealing, so I automatically wrote her off as a cranky, bitter old woman who probably hates kids and teens. She had jumped to conclusions about me, and at the very same time, I jumped to conclusions about her.
I haven’t seen that woman since that day, but today I had an encounter that reminded me of that day. Today at Speedway, I was slowly driving around trying to find an open pump. Once I discovered the only open pump, I had to step on the brakes to allow two pedestrians to walk in front of my car before pulling into the spot. As I waited, a black mustang whipped around from behind me and took the open pump. I didn’t even have a chance to hit the gas once the pedestrians had walked by. He beat me to it. Then, after he pulled into the spot, he didn’t even get out of his car. He sat there, talking on his cell phone. I was pretty ticked, but another spot opened up. However, as I rounded the corner to ease into it, a young woman in her SUV whipped into the Speedway lot from the busy street and stole it right before my eyes. Running on fumes, I decided to give up and risk running out of gas to just get home.
It’s taken me a few hours to really see the whole picture and be able to sit here and write about it. For some reason, this really irritated me more than it should have today. While I didn’t outwardly show my frustration, deep inside I was thinking unkind things about those people, and I certainly wasn’t thinking like a Christian.
You see, we don’t know everyone’s story and we never will. Maybe the man in his Mustang got an emergency phone call after he pulled in to the open pump. Perhaps that woman was rushing to get gas so she could go buy formula for her hungry, crying baby. I don’t know their stories, and I probably never will. But here’s the point: it doesn’t matter. Even if there were no excuses for their behavior, I still have to see them the way Christ does and love them, even though it’s hard.
There are tons of scriptures in the Bible that tell us how much we should love others and put them before ourselves. Philippians 2:4 tells us:
“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Another great one is Luke 6:35:
“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.”
I guess what I’m trying to prove is the importance of not judging others, jumping to conclusions or thinking we’re always in the right. And, even after we are wronged, we must not want to wrong others in return. Instead, it should make us want to show them the love of Christ even more (1 Thessalonians 5:15).
I have to remind myself of this all the time. Even though we all know we’re supposed to “love thy neighbor as thyself,” it really isn’t just some little memory verse from kids church. It really is what we’re supposed to do! Remember that Christ died for your sins and loves you without condition. Don’t you think we have to learn to love and forgive others just as Christ loves and forgives us? (Colossians 3:13)
Our sacrifice is little in comparison to his.
Live it today.