The old saying, “give as good as you get,” isn’t exactly a Christian one. It implies taking retribution into our own hands, not allowing God to be the one who metes out justice. Secondly, it is the complete opposite of the Golden Rule, totally denying the thing that matters most, which is love. “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love,” Paul tells us. “But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).
But I was reminded today not only of the importance of giving love to others, but of being a good receiver of love as well. For some of us, it is harder to be a receiver than a giver. Whether we are like Martha, so caught up in the details of the thing that we forget the main reason we gathered in the first place, or are just so addicted to control that we don’t think anything can be done right unless we are on top of it, we fail to open our arms and release that control long enough to receive the help or encouragement or compliments that other people are trying to give us.
My reminder today came in the form of taking the time to actually stick around after my exercise class to talk to the other people who had come to class. Before class, I had had an up and down day. By the time class came around, I was mostly on the down side of things. When class was over, I was my usual tired, sweaty self. But, then the magic began to happen.
First, I saw a person who used to be on the same workout schedule as me but that I had not seen for some time. When she asked how I had been, I decided to share a little more than just the usual, “OK.” Then, another classmate took up the conversation with me and asked me to sit down. I started to listen more than talk as this person filled me in on some of the challenges she had faced throughout her life, recurring dental problems that were really crazy. As I continued to listen more than I talked, I was impressed by her upbeat attitude despite her extraordinary challenges. By the time I left the workout center, I was feeling more upbeat just because I had had the chance to listen to what this woman had had to say and how positive she was about the challenges she was facing.
The only thing I wish I had done was take a moment to thank my workout “friend” for sharing. I hope that she received as much from giving as I did from receiving.
God has so much He is willing to give to us. How often do we fail to receive, even from Him? David is a perfect example of one who understood the importance of being a good receiver. Over and over in his psalms, he implores God to bless him with forgiveness, escape from his enemies, or just peace. He thanks God in advance for the gifts David is sure God will give, even to those who don’t deserve it, especially since none of us deserve it. And David is bountiful in his praise of God, exhalting God’s goodness and power and love for us.
If we could only see ourselves through God’s eyes, the bare truth of all our sin and all the love He has for us anyway, how much better would we be at extending love to everyone else around us? None of us are free of mistakes. We all deserve the same chance to repent, to build our faith, to give and receive love that we give ourselves all the time. Why can’t we just extend it to everyone else?
Maybe it begins with being more open to receiving the love that is offered to us, especially the love that God offers. The better we are at receiving, the better we’re going to get at giving love, not just to God, but especially to those around us. What a wonderful way to shine His light!