An elephant at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Living like everyone has a long memory

I don’t often post about work on this blog, mainly because I never want to run the risk of getting too personal in my stories. But my work plays a huge role in my life, and I learn so much from it and from the people I work with. And yesterday, I got a really interesting reminder about the blessing (or danger) of long memories.

Okay. Story time.

For those of you who don’t know, I am a copywriter for a plumbing company. Sometimes I travel to locations around the country where customers are installing our piping systems so I can conduct interviews and write articles. A number of years ago, I was visiting a job site in Cincinnati, and that evening I got to have dinner with the owners of the mechanical contracting shop in charge of the project. We talked industry. We talked politics. We talked plumbing. And then we talked personal interests, and my love of writing came up–along with the science fiction novel I was trying to get published (called Nameless, in case anyone wants to know). Turns out, both of these owners are huge geeks, and they jumped on the topic eagerly, wanting to know how a publishing company works, wanting to understand how writing a book works, wanting to know everything about the book I’d written. At the end of the dinner, they told me they wanted me to keep them updated about the novel so they could buy it when it hits the shelves (in January, published by Crosshair Press).

Well, that was years ago. And there was quite a bit of alcohol consumed around that table. And I honestly figured they hadn’t really meant it. So you can imagine my surprise when the local sales rep from Cincinnati approached me at this year’s National Sales Meeting yesterday and informed me that those two owners had been asking about my book.

I was flabbergasted. I honestly didn’t know what to say. But once I recovered myself, I got to share the exciting news that my book will be published at the beginning of next year, and if they really want to buy it, they will be able to.

Honestly. Two union plumbing contractors interested in my science fiction novel. Of all the things they remembered about me from that night (other than the fact that I only drank water), they remembered my book. And they remembered it well enough to ask about it years afterward.

That made my day.

But then I got to thinking how awful would it have been if they’d remembered something negative about me? So many times people say they don’t have good memories, but what that means is they don’t usually remember good things. When it comes to bad things, people remember in startling detail. And as Christ-followers, we need to be aware of that.

An elephant at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

An elephant at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are 1 Peter 2:11-12.

Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.

What if I had been rude or distant? What if I had been ignorant or proud? What if I had been stuck up or snotty? I think these guys would have remembered that. Or they would have written me off completely, because that’s how they expect people to act.

What do the people around you think of you? Have you ever thought about it? Granted, you shouldn’t choose your actions based on what other people think of you, but never forget that as followers of Christ, we are here to be examples to those who don’t believe. We are ambassadors for Christ, and we are commanded to live lives that are above reproach. That means even if someone accuses of you doing something wrong, the way you live your life will be enough of a witness to show them a liar.

Do you think living that kind of life is impossible? Nothing is impossible with God. Why do you think He left us the Bible? The Bible has everything that we need to live a Christ-honoring life, and–what’s more–if you live according to what the Bible says, you’ll leave an impression on people. And it’ll be a good impression. An impression they’ll remember for years to come.

No, don’t live your life to please people, but never forget that people are always watching. Maybe it’s not fair, but they’re always waiting for that opportunity to write your faith off as something that’s not real. Don’t give them that opportunity.

Love God. Love people. Be real. And watch God work. Who knows what He’ll use in your life to influence people? Don’t discount anything. We serve a God who can feed 10,000 people with a sack lunch, so why am I shocked that He could intrigue two plumbers with a science fiction novel?

A pink saddle at the Sedgwick County Fair, Hutchinson, KS

Being kind to people who you really just want to smack

Loving people is hard work. Have you ever noticed that? I mean, some people are easy to love. They’re those people who make you better. They’re the people who brighten your day when you see them. And I am so very fortunate to be surrounded by people who encourage me and make my life bright. But then, there are the other people. And they are everywhere. You know who I’m talking about. Christian or non-Christian, old or young, at work or at school or at home or even on the street, the other people take your happy mood and stomp all over it. And they almost seem to enjoy doing it. Maybe they would enjoy doing if they enjoyed anything.

Don’t pretend like you aren’t thinking of someone right now. We all have them in our lives. Those people who we cringe when we see coming. I’ve got a couple (no one in my close inner circle though, thank God), and I wish I could tell you I was a good enough Christian that I embrace them with loving, open arms. But that would be a lie. More often than not, I hide. Because hiding is so much better than having to talk to them. Because talking to them runs the risk of me saying something regrettable out loud.

After all, why not? What if they deserve it? What if that extraordinarily irritating person really just needs to be put in his or her place? What if that obstinate, arrogant moron needs a good talking to so that they understand they’re the ignorant ones?

A pink saddle at the Sedgwick County Fair, Hutchinson, KS

A pink saddle at the Sedgwick County Fair, Hutchinson, KS (because I’m going to get on my horse and ride, this morning, folks)

Today’s verses are John 13:34-35.

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.

This passage makes me clench my teeth because there are days–so many days–when the last thing I want to do is love people. I don’t want to love people, especially stupid people. But guess what? Do you know who said this?

Yup. Jesus Himself said this. And there’s no misunderstanding this, no matter what language you read it in, no matter what translation you read it in (yes, for any of you who might be wondering if I’m a heathen, I read multiple translations at the same time! *gasp*). And I believe if Jesus says it, I should do it, whether I want to do it or not, whether I feel like it or not, whether I even like it or not.

Jesus says to love people. I’m supposed to love people like He loves people.

Really?

Yes. Really. (Yes, I’m talking to myself right now.)

But Jesus isn’t telling us to roll over and let people walk over us. He isn’t saying that we’re supposed to walk around with our heads hanging low, sighing unhappily about how we’re supposed to love everyone. “Ho-hum. I have to love that idiot who told a lie about me.” News flash, folks. That’s not love.

Okay. I’m a little snarky this morning. Maybe I should apologize. But there’s a reason.

See, I had planned to do this post anyway because there are just certain people I encounter in life who I have a hard time being kind to. I have a hard time loving them because they just make it so dang hard. So I was going to post about loving each other anyway–and then I discovered that another WordPress blogger decided to repost something I said yesterday and proclaim to all the Internets that I am a Christian Infidel. And most of it stemmed from the fact that I made a somewhat derogatory comment about the King James Version of the Bible.

(Although my statement was less about the KJV and more about people who carry them around clubbing others with them…. “I’ll leave you to your deductions.”)

And you know, I wasn’t even angry about it. It made me laugh more than anything else. But then I got to thinking about it when I started this post. If I had the opportunity to speak to this person, what would I say to him? Not that he would care about anything I say. Obviously, he didn’t read my post. He just pulled out the part he didn’t like and decided I’m a horrible sinner (which I honestly can’t deny). But what would I say? What would I think? Could I look him in the eye and tell him that I love him? In spite of the fact that he’s pretty much twisting my words?

Well, that’s what I need to do. That’s what Jesus does with all of us, if you think about it. How often have I twisted the Bible to suit my own preferences? I’m sure I have. Everyone does. I wish we didn’t, but we do. We don’t want to submit to God’s authority, so we take it on ourselves to rationalize God’s truth to make ourselves feel better about our actions, about our inaction, about the way we treat others. Jesus knows we do that, and He still tells us that He loves us. That’s what makes Him different. That’s what makes Him Jesus.

Christians, that’s what makes us different. When we can look at the people who hurt us, the people who use us, the people who make us so angry we could just scream and tell them that we love them, they can’t say anything against it. When we look at those people–the ones who deserve to hurt, the ones who we think should be punished–and tell them that we love them because Jesus loves us, it shows that what we believe isn’t just for show. It proves that what we believe is real.

And that’s what the world needs right now. The world doesn’t need a translation of the Bible; the world needs the message of the Bible. The world doesn’t need another religious person wandering around making everyone feel guilty; the world needs to know how much Christ loves them and what He did to save them.

That’s what will change the world. It’s not me and it’s not you. It’s Jesus and His love, and the most amazing, awesome, incredible gift He has ever given us is the power and the strength and the courage to love people who don’t deserve it.

So I’m going to march over to my new friend’s blog and thank him for the pingback. He can do what he wants with it, but because of what Jesus has done for me, I am determined to love people today, especially the ones who make me mad. So watch out! If you piss me off today, I’m going to hug you!