by Pastor Brian Young
Your character can be most clearly seen by how you treat people who can do nothing for you. Have you ever met someone, thought them to be kind and caring, and then later discovered they only wanted to get something from you? We feel used, a means to a selfish end. This kind of manipulation is disturbing because it takes what we felt to be genuine, others-centered concern and reduces it to a selfish ploy. Beyond this, such behavior makes us feel taken for granted, disregarded.
When I was in graduate school, I worked as a cashier in a family-owned hardware store. Being the last person customers saw and spoke to as they left the store, the cashier was the “face of the Man,” so to speak – the impersonal image of the company. So, I heard customers’ grumblings, complaints, rude expressions of frustration about prices and mistakes in the advertisements, etc. This experience prompted a personal vow for me – never to treat a waitress or a cashier or other employee of a company as anything less than a valuable person with feelings and struggles.
Recently, I have been researching the righteousness of God in the Bible. God’s righteousness, brought to its ultimate expression in Christ, is His upright and equitable determination to secure good for the downtrodden. It goes far beyond a simple feeling of compassion. Righteousness means not simply seeing a person’s need and feeling sorry, but reaching out with hands to help, support, or encourage. It is a mindset so profound and so expressive of God’s nature that John would write in his epistle in the New Testament…
If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.
–1 John 2:29
Notice, the description here is of a lifestyle, a “practice.” To be a practitioner of righteousness means to have a set of caring lenses through which we see others. To meet them emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Offering words of care, messages of hope, expressions of compassion. This kind of care – eyes to see, hands to help – can be expressed in both big and little ways.
In Jane Austin’s classic novel, Emma, a young wealthy aristocratic woman fancies herself an expert matchmaker. She seems to have her work cut out for her when she befriends a woman named Harriett, single and available, but socially challenged. Harriett hailed from the other side of the tracks in a society (Victorian England) where social class meant everything. One’s class dictated how you spent your time, with whom you associated, and certainly who you married. After her initial attempt to pair Harriett with a man of considerable standing failed, Emma sees Harriett shriveling away. One particular night, at an extravagant dance, Emma descends into despair as her sad friend watches the dance from the sideline. All alone. No man will ask Harriett to dance. Rejected.
But out of the blue, a man whisks Harriett off her feet and dances with her. Harriett feels so blessed by the rescue that night on the dance floor that she thinks this man – Mr. Knightly – is her love and the man she wants to marry. But Emma realizes she is in love with Mr. Knightly too. Why? Mr. Knightly, this wealthy aristocrat, was different from every other man at the dance that night. Mr. Knightly’s was a righteous, caring heart in an age of snobbish sophistication and empty manners. Eyes to see, hands to help…
Whispering Pines Church
Coal Creek Canyon