Over the last couple of posts, we’ve looked at the value God places on each of us — that you, as an individual, are worthwhile and valuable to God. Knowing we’re valuable to God then changes how we treat ourselves, how we conduct ourselves, and how we present ourselves every day. I’m not simply some office worker living a mundane work-home-work existence; I’m a child of God. I’m a light on a hill. I belong to a royal priesthood, set apart and sanctified by God. So I should act like it.
The next big step comes when we realize that God views everyone as valuable. The Spanish-speaking girl working behind the Subway register? Valuable. That senator saying things against your chosen party? Valuable. That person texting and driving? Valuable. That telemarketer who just mispronounced your name? Valuable. The lady paying with food stamps right in front of you at the grocery store? Valuable. God places just as much value on every one of them as He does on you.
Jesus shows us just how far this thinking should go toward the end of Matthew 5:
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers,what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Even people who mistreat and misuse us are valuable to God, so Jesus says to care about them and to pray for them. This goes against our sense of justice, against our desire for retribution, against our instincts. Immediately prior to these statements, Jesus says:
You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic,let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
I’ve heard numerous reasons for denying mercy or forgiveness, but none hold up against Christ’s teachings. Every person has worth, and it’s my responsibility as a child of God to treat them as worthwhile. If someone cuts me off in traffic, I don’t rail against them or begin driving unsafely to make a point of how affronted I am. If a politician says something I disagree with, I don’t go to Facebook to berate them. I don’t joke about shooting “illegals” or “liberals”. I don’t take joy in misfortune visiting any person or group of people, no matter how much a part of me wants to feel they deserve it.
Instead, I visit kindness wherever I can. Someone in line at the grocery store says something disparaging about our cashier? I make it a point to say something nice to her or him. The table next to me is giving our waiter or waitress a hard time? I tip extra. My coworker is late meeting a deadline that affects our project? I help out. Little moments of self-sacrifice and mindful kindness can go a long way in making others feel better about themselves and, in the long run, more open to spiritual matters. Depending on the dispositions you’ve grown used to living with (optimist, pessimist, trusting, skeptical, etc.), this may take some adjustment, but it is an adjustments God expects all of his children to make.
Finally, Galatians 6:9-10:
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
Sometimes it can be tough to keep a positive attitude and treat everyone with the love and grace God shows, us. There will times we need to recharge, but the more we make kindness and goodness a part of our daily routines, the easier it will get. What starts out as effort becomes habit when practiced consistently. It begins with recognizing the value God places on all of us. If I can see you as a creation of God first, and all other qualities secondary to that, then I can go a long way toward treating you as I should. I know that God loves me and cherishes me. When I can realize that God loves and cherishes you as well, then I can begin to imitate that love.